Friday, August 17, 2012

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho

From Paulo Coelho, author of the international bestseller The Alchemist , comes a poignant, richly poetic story that reflects the depth of love and life. Rarely does adolescent love reach its full potential, but what happens when two young lovers reunite after eleven years? Time has transformed Pilar into a strong and independent woman, while her devoted childhood friend has grown into a handsome and charismatic spiritual leader. She has learned well how to bury her feelings . . . and he has turned to religion as a refuge from his raging inner conflicts. Now they are together once again, embarking on a journey fraught with difficulties, as long-buried demons of blame and resentment resurface after more than a decade. But in a small village in the French Pyrenees, by the waters of the River Piedra, a most special relationship will be reexamined in the dazzling light of some of life's biggest questions.

My take: 2 looks
One review of this book used the words "metaphysical allegory". I should have known then what I would think upon finishing this book. There is a subtitle of "A Novel of Forgiveness".

I don't really know where to start. Pilar is a young woman who is quite conflicted. She thinks she has had a good life, but upon reflection, decides that it was more like quicksand and only served to hold her back. Faced with a man from her past who has fallen deeply in love with her over the past eleven years (of having no contact with her whatsoever), she is like an oscillating fan: back and forth and back and forth. Does she love him? Should she go back to school? No, she doesn't love him. Wait! Yes! Yes, she does love him.

This man, whose name we never know, communicates with the Virgin Mary, performs miracles and feels the calling to spread the feminine-side of the gospel. He goes out half-clothed into the snow to enter into a trance to finally decide whether he should be a religious zealot or a man in love with a woman he barely knows.

They both exorcise themselves of The Other, which seems to be the negative, questioning, realistic, grown-up side of each person's personality. The Other has to stand in the corner and try to sneak back in on occasion, but it doesn't seem to be too stealthy.

All of this felt very overly dramatic and sophomoric (like watching two high-schoolers trying to one-up each other when it comes to "I love you but I must leave you and it's going to tear me apart but I'm going to do it again and again to prove my martyrdom" mentality). Coelho takes himself much too seriously if this is the way the trilogy (this is the first in the And On the Seventh Day series) plays out. However, because of the sheer cleverness of the title of the second in the series, Veronika Decides to Die, I have added it to my list.

I can't recommend this one.

1 comment:

  1. His latest books are not doing so well. I really liked The Alchemist.