When a sceptical, culturally-confused art restorationist receives a surprise visit and news from his manipulative ex-girlfriend, he reluctantly agrees to join her on a road trip across Italy to meet his estranged and dying father, a spiritual guru for Swiss bankers.
Dev Robinson was raised by his single British mother in a small commune in India. As a teenager, he began to suspect that his mother’s guru, a Sri Lankan man living in Switzerland, was his father. He regularly heard his mother listening to the audio recordings of the guru, which he found both trite and irritating.
Dev left the commune as soon as he was old enough, and while studying art restoration in Italy, he fell in love with Miriam, an anxious and manipulative Neapolitan psychologist. For five years, the couple shared a tumultuous relationship, which ended when Dev abruptly disappeared, leaving his entire Italian life and career behind.
Having kept Dev’s phone contract, five years after his disappearance, Miriam receives a phone call from the lawyer of Anish Shantha, Dev’s estranged father. Anish is a former banker turned guru, whose spiritual teachings were bankrolled by his financier boss, and whose immaculate Swiss ashram and public relations campaigns are overseen by the daughter of his former boss, Maria Bordier-Metzler.
Unknown to Maria and the ashram team, Anish changed his legal directives and listed Dev as his only emergency contact, giving him the power of attorney in life and death situations. After collapsing while on a European speaking tour and falling in and out of consciousness, his lawyer phones the only number she has for Dev, as she needs him to make a decision about a potentially risky surgical procedure.
Upon receiving the call, Miriam sets about locating Dev, eventually discovering a museum employing him in Croatia. Unable to find further contact details and wanting her own closure from his disappearance five years earlier, Miriam takes a ferry to Croatia and surprises Dev at work. In turn, she is likewise shocked to discover that he is both married and has a four-and-a-half-year-old son.
After sharing the news about his father, Dev insists that he wants nothing to do with the situation, though Miriam presses him until he finally agrees to visit Anish. After journeying together to the Italian hospital where Anish is being kept, Miriam and Dev meet Maria and other members of the ashram team, who try to pressure Dev into signing the legal directives over to Maria. After speaking with Anish for the first time since childhood, Dev decides to seek a second opinion and remove Anish from the hospital, against the wishes of his ashram.
Miriam and Dev set about stealing Anish from the hospital, and thus, begin what becomes a road trip across Italy, dodging intrusive journalists, holding spontaneous group meditations at gas stations and visiting not only medical doctors, but the seaside, spiritual centres and sacred caves. The journey across the vast and varying landscapes mirror the interior journeys each takes, as they struggle to come to terms with their pasts.
In confronting her role in the accidental death of her father, Miriam helps Dev to reconcile with Anish and forgive his choices not to raise him as a son and to instead to hide him and his mother away in India. Anish begins to clearly understand what he missed in attempting to lead a spiritual life for other people, and he enjoys what become the final days of his life with Dev. Dev and Miriam also finally have the conversation they needed for closure.
Dev is a sceptical, culturally-confused art restorationist, who was raised by his British mother, Claire, in a small commune in India. Though he initially believed that he was half-Indian, he later learned that he is half-Sri Lankan. As a child, Dev did not know the nature of his paternity, but as a teenager, he began to suspect that Anish Shantha, a rich and famous Sri Lankan guru in Europe, might be his father. Claire was an avid devotee of Shantha and regularly listened to tape recordings of his teachings, which Dev found largely irritating and trite. There were also photos of Shantha on her altar, in which Dev saw a resemblance.
In general, Dev disavows religious and spiritual teachings, and as a result, he has a complicated relationship with his mother and the members of the commune, both loving them and often finding them foolish. Nonetheless, throughout his childhood, Dev possessed an interest in art, which was bolstered by the commune members encouraging him.
In his early twenties, after his mother confirmed his suspicions about his paternity, Dev left the commune and tried to make a living as an artist in India, but was largely unsuccessful. At 25, he moved to Italy to study art conservation and restoration in Florence at an International School, where he lived for four years. His mother believed he moved to Europe to subconsciously be nearer his father. After beginning work on a project in Pompei (at 29), he met Miriam, a captivating and strong-willed Neapolitan psychologist. They spent five years together as a couple, though the relationship was tumultuous, due to Miriam’s persistent anxiety and need to control everything and Dev’s inability to maintain a long-term emotional commitment.
Though Dev loved Miriam, at age 34, he learned that he had impregnated a young woman, Adriana, with whom he had a fling. Not wanting to be like his father, he decided to move to Croatia with Adriana and the baby, to her hometown on the island of Mali Losinj, where he began working for a local museum. Dev continues to struggle to maintain a happy, healthy relationship due to seemingly deep-seeded issues related to his father.
When Miriam suddenly reappears in his life with news of his estranged father’s terminal illness, he reluctantly agrees to join her in finally meeting Anish. After meeting his father, the trio set out on a road trip across Italy, which forces Dev to confront the pain he felt throughout his life over not knowing his father and the ways that pain manifested in his relationships. On the physical journey, which mirrors the interior journey he must make, he learns to forgive and accept his father, as well as himself.