Picks and Pans Review: Turtle Feet

updated 06/02/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/02/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Nikolai Grozni |

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At 22, Grozni, a Bulgarian piano prodigy educated in America who has just been ordained as a Buddhist monk ("If you want to spend your life like a freak, that's your problem," says his mother), is searching for "the ultimate truth" at the Dalai Lama's university in Dharamsala. But many of his lessons, as it turns out, derive from stoners on the town's fringes. In this thoughtful, sharply funny memoir, Grozni presents an expatriate ensemble that includes his scheming roommate Tsar and tattooed Damien, who "does complicated handshakes with fingerless beggars." Though Grozni's quest ends short of Nirvana, his elegant story makes it clear that the ride—and not the destination—is the source of joy.

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