Anne Cushman’s first novel, Enlightenment for Idiots, is a winning combination of romance, satire and spiritual adventure. In particular, it speaks to the paradoxical issues that women often face when they immerse themselves in Asian spiritual traditions. Cushman has been teaching yoga and writing about it for many years, and her familiarity with all the players in the yoga scene (Indian and American) serves her well.
The novel tells the tale of Amanda as she simultaneously pursues enlightenment and her identity as a woman. Through a writing assignment to produce another in a series of books for “idiots,” she is sent to India to research enlightenment. While traveling solo, she discovers she is pregnant by her ex—the elusive, charming and unavailable Matt. The essential paradox of being pregnant for the first time and seeking enlightenment from a colorful cast of gurus provides for a fun and compelling story.
On a deeper level, Cushman’s novel offers food for thought about the way childbearing women and mothers are viewed both now and historically within Asian spiritual traditions. Amanda finds a uniquely contemporary resolution to her situation, which I leave to the reader to discover. Reading her story may inspire us each along our own paths to enlightenment.