MARTIN GOODMAN doesn't pretend for a second that his biography of Mother Meera, an Indian mystic said by followers to be an incarnation of the Divine Mother, is an objective one. This book, after all, is the former devotee's second attempt at a Mother Meera biography -- after reading the first version, she demanded that he destroy it, and he did. The new book is still largely a biography, bookended by somewhat disjointed recollections of Goodman's own interactions with the mystic. Although he thanks a friend in the acknowledgments for "help[ing] the book shed its anger," it reads as a personal sorting out of the author's disillusionment, caused by Mother Meera's condemnatory remarks about homosexuality -- Goodman is gay -- and the destruction of the first book. He seems unable to narrate the good beginnings to his relationship with her without allowing the later disappointments to intrude.
In this light, it's difficult to accept as a dispassionate weighing of evidence either the opinions of unbelievers or the account of Mother Meera's "uncle" -- a man who, obsessed with finding "a child from his village whom he will promote to world renown," finally alights on the young girl who will become Mother Meera. While occasionally fascinating, Goodman's story is too shaded with hurt to allow us to share his initial joyous discovery of her gifts, and thereby understand his final judgment of Mother Meera: that she is, despite everything, "an open door through which we can see and meet God."