Jessica Grose’s novel, Soulmates has a special place in my heart. It unravels the mysterious murder of a pair of yoga instructors, found dead just outside a retreat. The news headline dubs it “namaslay.”
The book takes satirical aim at the trend of faux-spiritualism, with Western style yoga being a prime target. Don’t get me wrong – I love yoga. But there is something that can feel a bit disjointed about the West’s interpretation of it. This is a practice that preaches against materialism, but somehow Americans spend $27 billion on yoga products annually. (1) We’re urged to make peace with our bodies, while supermodel physiques are what we see in yoga publications. The fact is that Western yoga has been molded to both appeal to and drive consumerist behavior. Fitness sells, and so the physical aspects of yoga are emphasized, while the spiritual side is often left behind or improvised.
When Grose wrote this book, she didn’t do any research on the spiritual elements of yoga. “I made up all of the theology,” she said. “It is a mishmash of nonsense, and that was done purposely.” (2) The yoga teachers in Grose’s book tell made-up parables and spew words of wisdom that they themselves invented. The gospel they spread isn’t yoga – it’s that amorphous “New Age Spirituality,” ever growing in popularity.
Grose’s theory is that it’s so people can fill a void.
She describes how “Americans, especially younger Americans, are moving away from traditional churches. They’re looking to alternative spiritualities to fill a very legitimate missing piece in their lives.”
That’s exactly what happens to Ethan, one of the main characters. Caught at a dead end job and rooted in an unsatisfying marriage, he finds an escape in the outlet of an urban yoga collective. He runs away with one of the teachers, but then the two of them turn up dead. Grose unravels the mystery with tongue in cheek humor and a compelling narrative that will keep you hooked through the end.
(1) Channel Signal – retrieved May 22, 2017. https://channelsignal.com/blog/by-the-numbers-the-growth-of-yoga/
(2) Julia Fesenthal, VOGUE, September 16, 2016, http://www.vogue.com/article/jessica-grose-soulmates-interview