89 of 98 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2001
I begin by noting that I love Coelho and find his prose to be almost poetic. I found this book - as always - beautifully written but a bit heavy on religion. Let me explain before you boo me off the stage, Coelho lovers! Usually, I find his thoughts on God and religion to be beautifully written but also subtly drafted. For example, in his masterpiece "The Alchemist", God and fate and religion were infused throughout the story, but subtly so. Here, the religion is very in your face. I found it bearable but a bit much, a bit unnecessary. Coelho is such a gifted writer that he doesn't NEED to be so blunt with religion and god. That said, this novel - as his others - is well constructed, a quick read and one in which we quickly become involved in the main characters lives. I found myself rooting heartily for the two main actors. The ending was something of a surprise, but as always left me on the edge of my seat with my mouth open and my mind racing. The book does what any good book should - leave you with the belief that you have read an excellent story, as well as give you many things to think about and relate to your own life. "By the River ..." is well worth a read, and Coelho continues to inspire with his almost non-stop beautiful prose. Each page contains at least one gem which I underline, think about, come back to, chew on, and then think about some more. A great read - if it was by anyone else I'd give it a 5; I give it a comparative 4 only in relation to his other books. While this one is great, his others are even greater.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2000
With each book I read by Paulo Coelho, I come to admire his works of wisdom, of love and of hope even more. Each book is a gem! I could not write down the quotes fast enough from this book! This book will leave you joyful as well as hopeful in this most romantic tale.
Pilar is confronted with facing herself - either she embraces her love or she walks away from it in the form of her childhood friend, who has misgivings about entering the seminary, due to his enduring love for her. She encounters the feminine face and force of God, which desires her to open up to love. Likewise, her seminarian is facing the battle of choosing between love and God. Both characters encounter challenges of the heart and find that they can have the best of both worlds - of love and of God. This is NOT a pushy or preachy religious book, but a book, which imparts the feminine and masculine aspects of God in our lives amidst the deep love of a man and a woman have for each other. "The previous day, the world had made sense, even without love's presence. But now we needed each other in order to see the true brilliance of things (88)."
"But love is always new. Regardless of whether we love once, twice, or a dozen times in our life, we always face a brand-new situation. Love can consign us to hell or to paradise, but it always takes us somewhere. We simply have to accept it, because it is what nourishes our existence. 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 it 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. (79)"
Coelho, the eternal optimist, shows us once again the power of love and of God's love in our lives. This book is a quick read and it is one of Coelho's best! A great love story!
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2006
A love story in which the two main characters, Pilar, who is a student in the town of Zaragoza, and her childhood sweetheart who she new as a girl in the small Spanish village Soria, `By The River Piedra, I Sat Down And Wept' weaves ideas about God, religion, and carnal love into a nice, if not a bit obscure work of fiction. Perhaps because this book was not read in its English translation and not in its original Spanish, something was lost in the process.
Pilar receives a message from her childhood friend that he will make a speech in Madrid. When Pilar reaches Madrid, she realizes her friend has become a very influential and powerful leader of a religious movement that embraces the femininity of God. Shortly after the event, her friend professes his love for Pilar, a love that had been a part of his being since the two were children back in Soria, and he bades her to join him on a journey. On this journey, Pilar learns that her friend has not only become a leader of a religious movement, but that he also has the power to work miracles. At the same time, Pilar deals with "the Other," the part of each of our psyches that manifests itself as fear, regret, and other counterproductive emotional responses that prevents us from achieving our full potential as human beings. During this journey through the French Pyrenees, which includes stays at hostels and visits to churches and chapels, the two find themselves at the monastery at Piedra where the two had played as children. It is at Piedra where Pilar's friend must ultimately choose the path of his own life.
Often described as poetic, Coelho's prose in `By The River Piedra, I Sat Down And Wept' is artistic and almost dreamlike. Throughout the book, Pilar actually seems to be in some sort of dream in which she willingly floats from place to place with her friend as she searches for her true self. At the same time, Pilar wonders and worries, as a result of the existence of the Other that lives inside her, what will become of the love that she has for her friend and the love her friend has for her. So, what has the potential to be a powerful and moving story of love is actually blunted by the almost ennui of the writing.
While the reader knows he or she is not reading a Tom Clancy novel, there is not a great deal of action in the story. The majority of the action actually occurs inside of each of the characters. Even the conflict between the two protagonists (assuming either religion or the Other are the antagonist) is muted. As such, `By The River Piedra, I Sat Down And Wept' is really a nice read on a quiet afternoon in a bathtub drinking chamomile tea and surrounded by lit candles, (ladies), but the story and the message leave a little to be desired, I think, for many other readers. It's well done, but just a little cryptic and ambiguous for a lot of folks.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2003
Stunning book. I am not a normal reader of such metaphysical works but was caught by the title and curiosity. The book's author impecibly reveals his views of life and love and their true value and meaning. It was a pleasure to read about two lost loves from childhood who reunite as adults in search of "love" in their life. Not your typical love story. My favorite line is on page 148;"Break the glass, please - and free us from all these damned rules, from needing to find an explanation for everything, from doing only what others approve of." That sums up the meaning of the story. Love has no rules, requires no ones approval,is a precious gift and to experience that "magic moment" some people will wait a lifetime for.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 1999
This was an incredible book! I read the first two pages and was instantly engulfed in a beautiful love story. I could not put the book down. If you are a true romantic at heart then read this book. Pilar brings hope to the real meaning of following your heart.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2006
I have read many of Paulo Coelho's books during the last year, and I am constantly amazed by how he's able to thread amazing spiritual lessons within fictional works - and all of them page-turners at that!
"By the River Piedra..." is about love - the love of a man & a woman, and the love of each of them for God. It also explores the feminine aspect of God - describing God as having both male & female "attributes" (for lack of a better word), as well as the idea that we all have the ability to perform miracles - in our own lives, and in the lives of others.
Overall, I found this to be a beautifully written spiritual book - one that lends itself to reflection. If you are at all interested in fictional books with a spiritual lesson, I would highly recommend not only this book, but all of this author's books - they all have something wonderful to offer!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 1999
After hearing so many good things about The Alchemist and other Coelho works, I was eager to pick up a copy of Piedra at a local used book store.... then I started reading it, and I got over the whole 'eager' thing. I found this book profoundly underwhelming, profoundly un-profound. Maybe something got lost in the translation; far from seeming 'resonant', the spare, sparse, bare-bones narration and dialogue just felt dull and ineffectual. So the writing style wasn't all that innovative or noteworthy; the characters were sketchy, and as a result, the plot's dramatic climax had no emotional impact. Again, the flat writing style made the book's outcome appear arbitrary - he leaves, he stays, who cares? The two characters probably should have skipped the religious lecture circuit and signed up at A.A. in the first place.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2003
Maybe some of you who read before Coelho expect this book to be another fable. It is true, 'By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept' can be considered a fable, as well as a love story set in the present, having some similarities with 'The Alchemist'.
This is another journey (actually most of Coelho's books are journeys) to self dicovery and rediscovery of faith. Pilar, the main character, sets up for her journey to regain trust in God and fall in love again, no matter how much it may hurt.
However, nobody can deny the beauty of this book which is well worth reading, Coelho being here an artist at describing feelings, confusions, states of mind.
Full of deep meanings, warmth, joy and unexpected sorrow, the story is a celebration of the many possibilities life has to offer, and a fable about opening your heart to miracles.
It is also about searching for wisdom, in the French Pyrenees, and learning the wisdom inherent in loving. The `spiritual path can only be travelled through the daily experience of love', and that is why `sooner or later, we have to overcome our fears'. Pilar and her lover, make this journey together and finally get to understand its meaning. They are fictitious characters, `but they represent the many conflicts that beset us in our search for love'.
Coelho touches here upon another interesting point: the feminine face of God. We find out of God's feminine face, that all religions all over the world have a Goddess figure, a Virgin Mary, a Great Mother, though her presence, or importance, may seem to have been forgotten. And it is she who encourages us to love, for loving a partner, and marrying, is the only way of serving God. Coelho's parable reflects the interest and fascination with the feminine side of God. The other key to the story is expressed by the author in an introductory note: "Spiritual experience is above all a practical experience of love. And with love, there are no rules."
I am sure this will be a very interesting and unforgettable experience for all of you who decide to read this book.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2000
"By the River Piedra" shows us how love redeems, how it sets free, how it complicates life to make it richer. In the story love in its varied guises visit the couple--philia, the love between life-long friends, romantic and erotic love, and love of God.
Coelho says: "The heart decides, and what it decides is all that really matters." He elevates love to the highest position possible. Love is what really matters, just as St. Paul announced that love is the greatest, just as in myths and tales love always triumphs, even if death may come for it love survives for not even the grim reaper can arrest love's heart.
Coelho observes: "To love is to lose control." How true! When love finds us it tears down the walls that have kept us within our safe little abode. We are ushered into a freedom, a soulful experience that cuts the cords that bind us to earth. We move into a surreal realm that all at once looks and feels more real than the world we've just left behind.
Coelho's works speak to our spirit and our soul, to a part of us that some pejoratively call our naiveté. Those who have been disillusioned and enthralled by Reason and who no longer believe in anything except the things they can see and touch won't appreciate Coelho's stories of Personal Legends and the heart's call, of angels' tidings and the Soul of the World. Yet for most of us who still bask in our childlike inheritance of imagination and fantasy and intuition, Coelho is an elixir in a world that adulthood daily turns into a dreary desert.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2005
I'm a big fan Paulo Coelho. I was inspired by the Alchemist, moved by the Fifth Mountain, and greatly intrigued by Veronika Decides To Die. This was the second of his novels I read, and I was pleasantly surprised. I had no idea what I was reading when I bought it. It was a whimsical purchase. I bought it based on my liking of the Alchemist. The plot of this book is easily explained in the editorial reviews, so, I'll just keep this as simple as possible. Paul Coelho writes a love story here. Tender, moving, inspiring, and heartfelt. I like Coelho's style. He doesn't bog the reader down with a ton of fanciful imagery. He only uses literary devices that are essential to his story. He never overdoes it, nor does he underplay anything. All of this is applicable to this novel, a pleasant surprise. I've read better novels, but, this one hit all the right notes. Sure, it was a bit sappy, and the feminine-sided religion was a little overkill at times, but, that's easily excusable for such a good book.