Review: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a very interesting take on a romance novel. It was probably more of a spiritual and philosophical guide, but romance did figure prominently. I read it for my book club at work.

From the back of the book: “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 deovted childhood friend has grown into a handsome and charismatic spiritual leader… Now, they are together once again, embarking on a journey fraught with difficulties…”

What I liked most in this story was Pilar’s battle between her head and her heart. She’d grown weary of dreams and possibilities, and had settled into a life of mundane details, dominated by concerns like paying the bills and taking out the trash. But then she was faced with the prospect of reuniting with a childhood love, a man who owned no home and who made his living through preaching miracles–specifically, the feminine side of God. Pilar’s heart fluttered and her head worried. I can totally relate to Pilar.

The writing was beautiful and lyrical, full of so many thought-provoking quotes, like:

“But love is much like a dam: if you allow a tiny crack to form through which only a trickle of water can pass, that trickle will quickly bring down the whole structure, and soon no one will be able to control the force of the current.” (p. 31)

“For years, I had fought against my heart, because I was afraid of sadness, suffering, and abandonment. But now I knew that true love was above all that and that it would be better to die than to fail to love.” (p. 104)

“But he wasn’t listening. He had stood, seized my hair in his hands, and was kissing me. I clutched at his hair, too, and squeezed himm with all my strength, biting his lips and feeling his tongue move in my mouth. This was the kiss I had waited for so long–a kiss born by the rivers of our childhood, when we didn’t yet know what love meant…A kiss that had been lost so many times and now was found. In the moment of that kiss were years of searching, disillusionment, and impossible dreams.” (p. 148) Now THAT was a kiss!

I have a special affinity for water after being a competitive swimmer all my life, and I love what Coelho wrote about the Goddess manifesting herself to us through water. The metaphor of breaking a glass representing breaking through our fears was also masterful.

It was fascinating to me that Coelho never names Pilar’s male friend. No doubt the author is audacious and unique!

What I didn’t like so much was the ending. It felt rather dry after the rich, flowing text that came before it.

I joked on my blog that I needed a Clif’s Note version to understand this book, but I can proudly say that I wrote this review all by myself and I think I grew to understand and like this book better in the process! I’m giving it 3.5 stars. It’s not really my cup of tea–I need more plot and character development–but if you’re in for a thoughtful read, this is it. Someday I’d love to read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

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4 thoughts on “Review: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept”

  1. Thanks for your comment, Erica. What did you love about The Alchemist? Did you know that Paulo Coelho had disappointing sales when he first released The Alchemist, but then he doggedly pursued another publisher and then the book became famous? Very inspirational!


  2. What a lovely review, Jen! You seem to have captured the essence of the book (even though, while you were reading it, it was hard to understand — probably because of the poetic writing style.) I particularly enjoyed reading the quotes, which gave me insight into what it would be like to read pages (as opposed to the completed story). 🙂


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