Henry Steel Olcott was, by all accounts, a strange and interesting man. Born into a piously Presbyterian New Jersey family in 1832, Olcott went on to become a New York journalist, a Civil War colonel, and most famously a founding member of the Theosophical Society and a major figure in the nineteenth-century Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka. Although Olcott has been the subject of numerous studies over the years, Stephen Prothero's The White Buddhist examines Olcott from a new and unusual angle. Prothero has three specific purposes: first, he presents a "sympathetic yet scholarly" interpretation of Olcott's life; second, he uses that life as "an opportunity to interpret the broader nineteenth-century American encounter with the religions of Asia"; and third, he introduces the linguistic term "creolization" as a means of understanding cultural and religious interactions. This is a promising premise with which to begin; Prothero proposes to view Olcott less as an individual and more as an emblem of a particular moment in American religious history, a moment when America was both exporting and importing religious ideas: "From his mid-life passage to Asia until his death in 1907, Olcott functioned as culture broker between Occident and Orient, facilitating the commerce of religious ideas and practices between America and Asia even as he helped to bring into the world's religious marketplace a wholly new spiritual creation" (p. 3). As Prothero demonstrates, Olcott viewed Kipling's "East is East and West is West" dictum as fundamentally false, believing instead that the two cultures could indeed meet and, furthermore, that an amalgamation of Eastern and Western religions was both possible and desirable, such that the best of both could be preserved in a new, hybrid tradition (this is the tenet upon which Theosophy was based). However, as Prothero notes, Olcott did not simply go off to Asia to trade ideas. On the contrary, he went as a peculiarly Orientalist reformer, with a very definite notion of what true religion should be. Indeed, as Prothero argues throughout The White Buddhist, Olcott was fundamentally a product of his liberal Protestant upbringing, and even in his reform efforts in Asia, his notion of proper religious practice was informed by his religious roots. As Prothero puts it, "Olcott's encounter with the Asian 'other' reduced, more often than not, to an encounter with his liberal American and Protestant 'self'" (p. 12). This is perhaps nowhere more true than in Olcott's activities in Sri Lanka, where he at once embraced Buddhism and at the same time lashed out at some of the leading monks on the island, charging them with practicing a corrupt, adulterated form of Buddhism that went counter to the original teachings of the Buddha. The author puts the concept of "creolization," which he borrows from linguistics and applies to cross-cultural interaction, to particularly good use in his analysis of Olcott's hybrid Buddhism. According to Prothero, the Buddhism that Olcott championed, indeed that he created, "was not the tradition of the Buddhists but a 'Buddhism' of his own invention - a Buddhist lexicon informed by a Protestant grammar and spoken with a theosophical accent" (p. 69). He argues that Olcott was not, in fact, so much a cultural pluralist as a kind of unwitting hegemonist; in Olcott's creole religious language, the grammar of Protestant Christianity had a tendency to run roughshod over the lexicon of Theravada Buddhism. Unfortunately, however, the author far too often shies away from the complexities and problematics of Olcott's activities. For instance, Prothero points out that in his denunciation of the "decay of spiritualism, the corruption of the Sangha" (p. 106) Olcott was corroborating the negative stereotypes of Orientalism, but then he pursues the issue no further. There is a rich and complex body of literature on nineteenth-century Orientalist practices, and one wishes that Prothero had engaged in a more sustained analysis of Olcott in light of this discourse. Indeed, Prothero far too frequently lapses into an apologetic stance just as his critique gets going. Part of the problem here is tone. In chronicling Olcott's early life in New York, his career as a reformist journalist, his partnership with his Theosophical sidekick, Madame Blavatsky, and his travels in Asia, Prothero adopts a reverential, at times almost hagiographic tone. For instance, in chapter 2, "Universal Reformer," Olcott emerges as a valiant captain of liberal Protestant idealism, aiming "not only to reform individuals but also to uplift institutions," institutions as diverse as the Army and Navy, Tammany Hall, and insurance law: "If American society was an Augean stable, then Olcott was its Hercules, cleansing the mess with the rivers of moral decency" (p. 37). This tone unfortunately continuously crops up throughout The White Buddhist, and it masks some of the serious and complex issues involved in Olcott's career as a culture broker. Indeed, toward the end of the book, even Prothero admits that when Olcott encountered differences between his own creolized Buddhism and the Buddhism actually practiced by Buddhists in Sri Lanka, he insisted that the island's Buddhists conform with his invented religion. Prothero writes that the "tragedy of this response is that it prevented Olcott from engaging in genuine dialogue with Asian religious reformers" (p. 179). Is this a tragedy, though, or merely a symptom of the contingencies of the specific context? Except for a brief footnote that draws attention to the issues but does not address them, Prothero's analysis ends there. In this and several other points earlier in the book, one is left feeling that Prothero has curtailed his scholarly analysis in the name of sympathy. Readers interested both in nineteenth-century American religion and in broader issues of East/West cultural contact will find The White Buddhist engaging and thought provoking, but many readers will also find this a frustrating book in the way that it raises a number of important issues without fully analyzing them.