• Born—September 19, 1953
• Raised—Revere, Massachusetts, USA
• Education—B.A., M.A., Brown University
• Awards—Massachusetts Book Award for Nonfction; Maria
Thomas Fiction Prize; Alex Award
• Currently—lives in western Massachusetts
Roland Merullo is an American author who writes novels, essays and memoir. His best-known works are the novels Lunch with Buddha (2012), Breakfast with Buddha (2007), In Revere, In Those Days (2002), A Little Love Story (2005), Golfing with God (2005), Revere Beach Boulevard (1998) and the memoir Revere Beach Elegy (2002). His books have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, German and Croatian
Merullo was born in Boston and raised in Revere, Massachusetts. His father, Roland (Orlando) was a civil engineer who worked for state government and was named personnel secretary by Christian Herter, governor of Massachusetts. In his 50s, Orlando attended Suffolk Law School, passed the Bar at 60, and became an attorney. Roland's mother Eileen was a physical therapist who worked at Walter Reed Army Hospital with amputees injured in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. Later, she became a science teacher and taught at the middle school level for 25 years. He has two brothers, Steve and Ken.
Merullo earned his high school degree from Phillips Exeter Academy. After receiving a B.A. and M.A. (in Russian Language and Literature) from Brown University, Merullo spent time in Micronesia during a stint with the Peace Corps. He worked in the former Soviet Union for the United States Information Agency and was employed as a cab driver and carpenter. He taught creative writing at Bennington College and Amherst College, and was a writer in residence at Miami Dade Colleges and North Shore Community College.
In 1979 Merullo married Amanda Stearns, a photographer he met in college. The couple lives in western Massachusetts and has two daughters.
His first published essays appeared in the early 1980s. They include a piece on solitude featured in The Rosicrucian Digest and a humorous "My Turn" column for Newsweek.
Leaving Losapas, Merullo's first novel, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1991 and named a B. Dalton Discovery Series Choice. Publishers Weekly called his second book, A Russian Requiem (1993), "smoothly written and multifaceted, solidly depicting the isolation and poverty of a city far removed from Moscow and insightfully exploring the psyches of individuals caught in the conflicts between their ideals and their careers."
The works Revere Beach Boulevard, In Revere in Those Days, and Revere Beach Elegy are often referred to as the Revere Beach trilogy. Of In Revere, in Those Days David Shribman of the Boston Globe wrote,
The details are just right, and the result is a portrait of a time and a place and a state of mind that has few equals.This is a story that is true to life because it is about life itself, the tragedies and trials and travails, and even the triumphs, momentary and meaningless as they sometimes seem. This is a Boston story for the ages.
PBS correspondent Ray Suarez said,
I've never met Roland Merullo, or even read anything he's written before now. Yet today I feel as if I've known him my whole life.... At the close of Elegy, the reader is comfortably walking alongside a man who has grown into himself, accepted and embraced his past.
A Little Love Story, published in 2005, centers on a woman with Cystic Fibrosis. According to Bloomsbury Review (2005), the novel...
tinkers with traditional formula; the lovers are neither innocent nor naive, nor completely helpless in the face of their impossible barrier to produce a love story for the 21st century.... [The story] circumscribes a dramatic arc that takes in 9/11, media saturation, lecherous men in politics, ethnic family stereotypes, adult-onset dementia, and terminal illness in the relatively young. This is an utterly charming, beautifully told, completely affecting story that is one part love story, one part medical thriller.
Merullo’s early works have been termed thoughtful and reflective. "I think I am a person who cares about the emotional life of people...and so I spend a lot of time on the emotional experiences of my characters," he has said.
But Golfing with God, Breakfast with Buddha, American Savior and, most recently, Lunch with Buddha exhibit a more overtly spiritual theme—albeit humorous in tone. The seeds of this thematic shift can perhaps be traced to A Little Love Story. However, in the fall of 2008, Merullo surprised many with the release of Fidel’s Last Days, his first thriller. At the time, Merullo said,
I've had editors counsel me to write the same book over and over, and some readers who complained that I haven’t kept writing books set in greater Boston. But it would be like trying to keep a migratory bird in your backyard. I just want to go places, to see things, to observe the human predicament in different forms.... Like most novelists, I have a peculiar fascination with the way people behave and the psychological roots of, or reasons for, their behavior.
Merullo has won the Massachusetts Book Award for non fiction and the Maria Thomas Fiction Prize. He has been a Booklist Editor's Choice recipient and was among the finalists for a PEN New England / Winship Prize. In 2009, Breakfast with Buddha was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and American Savior was chosen as an Honor Book in Fiction at the Massachusetts Book Awards. Revere Beach Boulevard was recently named one of New England's top 100 essential books by the Boston Globe. The Talk-Funny Girl was a 2012 Alex Award Winner. (From the publisher.)
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