Five Years, Eleven Months by Visakha dasi

In this spiritual memoir, photojournalist Visakha chronicles her encounter with A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami and how her relationship with him developed – even as she resisted him and his message — to find what she calls “an expected love.”

The title of the book, Five Years, Eleven Months, refers to the amount of time she spent with the Swami who had just begun his mission to take Bhakti and the maha-mantra to the West. This memoir is not only an intimate glimpse at the author, but also the charm and teachings of this guru who would become the famous Bhakti emissary-saint of this century.

Visakha is a talented wordsmith: she’s been writing philosophical pieces for decades and has published several books. But her writing shines poetically here as she comes out from behind the veneer of the scholar that she is and shows us the person who was moved from guarded skepticism-atheism into the release of selfless love.

We first find ourselves in New York in 1971 and quickly move to a hiking trek in the Himalayas that leads us to other sacred sites in India, where we spend much time, then on to other destinations around the world as she follows A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami to photograph him and his burgeoning worldwide mission.

Visakha’s memoir is a poignantly honest look at her own doubts, the foibles of followers of the Swami and the problems in his mission, and the chaos in India.

The book is interspersed with her black and white photographs giving us a full sense of the scenes and time periods we find ourselves in.

Excellent, excellent read.