Thursday, February 28, 2013


Spiritual Fiction -  167 pages
Harper Perennial (first published in 1994)

I woke up a few days ago and walked up to my bookcase.  I felt the need to read this book.  It almost feels like Paulo Coelho's books have been coming to me almost predestined - I have felt an unconscious gravitation towards his books.  Every time it has happened, they have coincided to events in my life.  That's exactly what happened with this book.  By The River Piedra I Saw Down and Wept is a book of spirituality and love, and forgiveness.  Here's why this book is so important.

This review is part of the 2013 Paulo Coelho Spring Reading Challenge

The story in this book involves two individuals who were once in love and they are now seeing each other again after eleven years.  This has been the case in my life with the love of my life.  We grew up together, we loved each other and we never had a chance to tell each other how we felt.  Then, after ten/eleven years we saw each other again, and just like in this novel we have been experiencing similar moments.  Just like in The Alchemist the narrative of this story has personal relevance. 

This book is about the spirituality that is necessary for us to keep love alive.  "Lovers need to know how to loose themselves and then find themselves again."  In the process, we must also recognize the importance of God's love, as well as our love for one another.  "If we reject it, we die of hunger, because we lack the courage to stretch out a hand and pluck the fruit from the branches of the tree of life.  We have to take love where we find it, even if that means hours, days, weeks of disappointment and sadness.  The moment we begin to seek love, love begins to seek us.  And to save us." This book shows how this process is not as expected as we'd like it to be, it has its own curveballs, but we have to able to believe and be hopeful, it's part of the process of love.

Love comes in different shades and colors.  The main female character says the following:

"I also knew that from this moment on I was going to experience heave and hell, joy and pain, dreams and hopelessness; that I would no longer be capable of containing the winds that blew from the hidden corners of my soul.  I knew that from this moment on love would be my guide - and that it had waited to lead me ever since childhood, when I had felt love for the first time.  The truth is, I had never forgotten love, even when it deemed me unworthy of fighting for it.  But love had been difficult, and I had been reluctant to cross its frontiers."
The importance of knowing the true rewards of love cannot be denied.  Coelho mentions in this book that "a divided kingdom cannot defend itself from its adversaries.  A divided person cannot face life in a dignified way."  The grace needed to lead a dignified life stems from knowing the love within you, for others you love, and most of all God's love."In  order to have a spiritual life, you need not enter a seminary, or fast, or abstain, or take a vow of chastity.  All you have to do is have faith and accept God.  From then on, each of us becomes part of His path.  We become a vehicle for His miracles." 

During this whole time, there is an underlying theme that we often take for granted.  We forget the process of forgiveness, forgiveness for ourselves - for others - and for the circumstances.  We forgive.  We believe.  We have faith and hope.  And suddenly we feel God's love and move spiritually and gracefully through life. There is a conversation between the character that says exactly this.

"You still think that love can conquer all."
"Well, can't it?"
"Yes, it can. But it conquers at the right time - after the celestial battles have ended."
And this is what the book is all about....
Here is a map of all of other Paulo Coelho's books:

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