Thursday, August 23, 2007

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

On my way back from a conference in Toronto in May, I found myself finished with all the books I had brought and with a lot of time to sit in an airport (oh, how I love Delta). So I wandered into the airport bookstore and discovered The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho. I choose books by opening to the first page and reading it. If I feel like I need to read more, then I buy it (or borrow it). With The Devil and Miss Prym, I was totally hooked and loved the story. When I was done, I made a mental note to read more by this author.

Last week, I decided to take a break from buying books and went to the library instead. I searched for Coelho and found By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept. It is the story of a woman and a man who grew up together and, in their teens, find themselves in love. He, however, has a wanderlust that takes him out to explore the world, while she stays close to home in pursuit of a stable, secure life. After years apart, he calls her and they meet again and we learn that his feelings for her have never wavered, while she has become convinced that he is not the man for her.

When you read By the River Piedra…, you feel like you’re somewhere in a small mountain village in South America, sitting by the fire and listening to one of the village elders telling a folk story. You know there is a moral (in fact, the story is practically overflowing with moral guidance), but you are so enchanted with the story that you don’t feel preached to and you hardly notice that you’re being taught a lesson. The Devil and Miss Prym was the same way—you come away from Coelho’s stories feeling enlightened, yet like you’ve just been told a really good (grown-up) bed time story. I love it, and I’ll be reading more of Coelho’s work.

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