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By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

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Pilar is an independent and practical yet restless young woman, frustrated by the daily grind of university life and looking for greater meaning in her existence. Her life is forever transformed by an encounter with a childhood friend, now a mesmerizing and handsome spiritual teacher - and a rumored miracle worker - who leads her on a journey through the French Pyrenees, a magical landscape that has been home to holy visions and miracles through the ages. On this passionate adventure of the heart and spirit, the ...
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Pilar is an independent and practical yet restless young woman, frustrated by the daily grind of university life and looking for greater meaning in her existence. Her life is forever transformed by an encounter with a childhood friend, now a mesmerizing and handsome spiritual teacher - and a rumored miracle worker - who leads her on a journey through the French Pyrenees, a magical landscape that has been home to holy visions and miracles through the ages. On this passionate adventure of the heart and spirit, the two lovers together glimpse the feminine face of God and receive a startling revelation about the divine - that what they have always known as God is actually love, the powerful, essential force that is the very water of life. As they rediscover each other, Pilar and her lover also discover the joyous power at the heart of the human experience, and Paulo Coelho, our preeminent weaver of spiritual adventure, once again opens a window onto exhilaration and inspiration for his characters and readers alike.

"The story of a young Spanish woman, Pilar, and her encounter with her lost love, an unnamed spiritual seeker who comes to worship the feminine face of God. Clarke's translation is, as usual, somewhat hurried and condensed as if he's impatient with Coelho's admittedly belabored and self-consciously poetical style"--Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 58.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
By the Brazilian author of The Alchemist (1993) and the nonfictional The Valkyries: An Encounter with Angels (1995), a more mature work of fiction that may sell big.

Coelho adds fiber to his usual dish of inspirational spun-sugar with this new Christian romance, set in Spain and the Pyrenees. The story follows practical law student Pilar, who at 28 has lost her faith and who suddenly finds herself pursued by a childhood friend she hasn't seen for ten years. One day in December, she receives a letter inviting her to a lecture on religion that that long-lost friend will give in Madrid. Pilar finds that he's now a believer in the miracle of the "Magic Moment," an instant in time when God gives us a chance "to change everything that makes us unhappy." He's also a fervent believer in the Virgin Mary, the "feminine face of God." Has her friend become a seminarian, as he's suggested in a letter to her? Pilar doesn't know, but he wines and dines her and asks her to accompany him on a trip. Soon the two are sharing confidences (but not their bodies), while visiting churches and shrines, including Lourdes. This is mostly a two-character novel, with a priest used for exposition and as a means of filling in the background of Pilar's beloved (who remains nameless, being referred to simply as "he" in the narrative) as a Charismatic healer. Yes, he has the gift of laying on of hands, granted him by the Virgin when he spoke to her in tongues at a meeting of Charismatics. Even Pilar finds she can speak in tongues. Mild erotic tension grows as The Bridges of Madison County (will martyr Meryl run off with Clint?) meets The Garden of Allah (will disillusioned Dietrich wed deserter Trappist Boyer?) and Love demands that Pilar's beloved abandon healing for sexual/spiritual fulfillment.

Sex and God whipped into a tasty mayonnaise.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060736309
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/2006
  • Sales rank: 1,456,123

Meet the Author

Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, is one of the bestselling and most influential authors in the world. The Alchemist, The Pilgrimage, The Valkyries,Brida, Veronika Decides to Die, Eleven Minutes, The Zahir, The Witch of Portobello, and The Winner Stands Alone, among others, have sold 115 million copies in more than 160 countries.

Paulo Coelho nació en Brasil en 1947 y es uno de los autores con más influencia de hoy día. Conocido mundialmente por el bestseller internacional El Alquimista, Coelho ha vendido más de 100 millones de libros en todo el mundo, los cuales han sido traducidos a 68 idiomas y publicados en 150 países. Paulo Coelho escribe una columna semanal que se publica en los periódicos más importantes del mundo.


His books have been translated into 56 languages, topped bestseller lists throughout the world, and scored him such celebrity fans as Julia Roberts, Bill Clinton, and Madonna; yet for Brazilian publishing phenom Paulo Colho, the road to success has been strewn with a number of obstacles, many of them rooted in his troubled past.

As a youth, Coelho was expected to follow in the footsteps of his father, a professional engineer. When he rebelled, expressing his intentions to become a writer, his parents had him committed to a psychiatric hospital where he was subjected to electro-shock therapy. He left home to join the 1970s countercultural revolution, experimenting with drugs, dabbling in black magic, and getting involved in Brazil's bohemian art and music scene. He teamed with rock musician Raul Seixas for an extremely successful songwriting partnership that changed the face of Brazilian pop -- and put a lot of money in Coelho's pockets. He also joined an anti-capitalist organization called the Alternative Society which attracted the attention of Brazil's military dictatorship. Marked down as a subversive, he was imprisoned and tortured.

Amazingly, Coelho survived these horrific experiences. He left the hippie lifestyle behind, went to work in the record industry, and began to write, but without much success. Then, in the mid-1980s, during a trip to Europe, he met a man, an unnamed mentor he refers to only as "J," who inducted him into Regnum Agnus Mundi, a secret society that blends Catholicism with a sort of New Age mysticism. At J's urging, Coelho journeyed across el Camino de Santiago, the legendary Spanish road traversed by pilgrims since the Middle Ages. He chronicled this life-changing, 500-mile journey -- the culmination of decades of soul-searching -- in The Pilgrimage, published in 1987.

The following year, Coelho wrote The Alchemist, the inspirational fable for which he is best known. The first edition sold so poorly the publisher decided not to reprint it. Undaunted, Coelho moved to a larger publishing house that seemed more interested in his work. When his third novel (1990's Brida) proved successful, the resulting media buzz carried The Alchemist all the way to the top of the charts. Released in the U.S. by HarperCollins in 1993, The Alchemist became a word-of-mouth sensation, turning Coelho into a cult hero.

Since then, he has gone on to create his own distinct literary brand -- an amalgam of allegory and self-help filled with spiritual themes and symbols. In his novels, memoirs, and aphoristic nonfiction, he returns time and again to the concepts of quest and transformation and has often said that writing has helped connect him to his soul. While his books have not always been reviewed favorably and have often become the subject of strong cultural and philosophical debate, there is no doubt that this self-described "pilgrim writer" has struck a chord in readers everywhere. In the 2009 edition of the Guiness Book of World Records, Coelho was named the most translated living author -- with William Shakespeare the most translated of all time!

Good To Know

Few writers are able to accomplish what Coelho can in just two to four weeks -- which is how long it takes for him to write an entire novel.

Before become a bestselling novelist, Coelho was a writer of a different sort. He co-wrote more than 60 songs with Brazilian musician Raul Seixas.

Coelho is the founder of the Paulo Coelho Institute, a non-profit organization funded by his royalties that raises money for underprivileged children and the elderly in his homeland of Brazil.

In our interview with Coelho, he shared some fascinating facts about himself:

"I have been practicing archery for a long time; a bow and arrow helps me to unwind."

"In writing, I apply my feminine side and respect the mystery involved in creation."

"I love almost everything about my work, except conferences. I am too shy in front of an audience. But I love signings and having eye contact with a reader who already knows my soul."

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    1. Hometown:
      Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 24, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    1. Education:
      Left law school in second year
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

By the river Piedra I sat down and wept. There is a legend that everything that falls into the waters of this river--leaves, insects, the feathers of birds--is transformed into the rocks that make the riverbed. If only I could tear out my heart and hurl it into the current, then my pain and longing would be over, and I could finally forget.

By the River Piedra I sat down and wept. The winter air chills the tears on my cheeks, and my tears fall into the cold waters that course past me. Somewhere, this river joins another, then another, until--far from my heart and sight--all of them merge with the sea.

May my tears run just as far, that my love might never know that one day I cried for him. May my tears run just as far, that I might forget the River Piedra, the monastery, the church in the Pyrenees, the mists, and the paths we walked together.

I shall forget the roads, the mountains, and the fields of my dreams--the dreams that will never come true.

I remember my "magic moment"--that instant when a "yes" or a "no" can change one's life forever. It seems so long ago now. It is hard to believe that it was only last week that I had found my love once again, and then lost him.

I am writing this story on the bank of the River Piedra. My hands are freezing, my legs are numb, and every minute I want to stop.

"Seek to live. Remembrance is for the old," he said.

Perhaps love makes us old before our time--or young, if youth has passed. But how can I not recall those moments? That is why I write--to try to turn sadness into longing, solitude into remembrance. So that when I finish telling myself the story, I can toss it into the Piedra. That's what the woman who has given meshelter told me to do. Only then--in the words of one of the saints--will the water extinguish what the flames have written.

All love stories are the same.

We had been children together. Then he left, like so many young people who leave small towns. He said he was going to learn about the world, that his dreams lay beyond the fields of Soria.

Years passed with almost no news of him. Every now and then he would send me a letter, but he never returned to the paths and forests of our childhood.

When I finished school, I moved to Zaragoza, and there I found that he had been right. Soria was a small town, and as its only famous poet had said, roads are made to be traveled. I enrolled in the university and found a boyfriend. I began to study for a scholarship (I was working as a salesgirl to pay for my courses). But I lost the competition for the scholarship, and after that I left my boyfriend.

Then the letters from my childhood friend began to arrive more frequently--and I was envious of the stamps from so many different places. He seemed to know everything; he had sprouted wings, and now he roamed the world. Meanwhile, I was simply trying to put down roots.

Some of his letters, all mailed from the same place in France, spoke of God. In one, he wrote about wanting to enter a seminary and dedicate his life to prayer. I wrote him back, asking him to wait a bit, urging him to experience more of his freedom before committing himself to something so serious.

But after I reread my letter, I tore it up. Who was I to speak about freedom or commitment? Compared to him, I knew nothing about such things.

One day I learned that he had begun to give lectures. This surprised me; I thought he was too young to be able to teach anything to anyone. And then he wrote to me that he was going to speak to a small group in Madrid--and he asked me to come.

So I made the four-hour trip from Zaragoza to Madrid. I wanted to see him again; I wanted to hear his voice. I wanted to sit with him in a caf‚ and remember the old days, when we had thought the world was far too large for anyone ever to know it truly.

Saturday, December 4, 1993

The place where the conference was held was more formal than I had imagined it, and there were more people there than I had expected. How had all this come about?

He must be famous, I thought. He'd said nothing about this in his letters. I wanted to go up to the people in the audience and ask them why they were there, but I didn't have the nerve.

I was even more surprised when I saw him enter the room. He was quite different from the boy I had known --but of course, it had been twelve years; people change. Tonight his eyes were shining--he looked wonderful.

"He's giving us back what was ours," said a woman seated next to me.

A strange thing to say.

"What is he giving back?" I asked.

"What was stolen from us. Religion."

"No, no, he's not giving us anything back," said a younger woman seated on my right. "They can't return something that has always belonged to us."

"Well, then, what are you doing here?" the first woman asked, irritated.

"I want to listen to him. I want to see how they think; they've already burned us at the stake once, and they may want to do it again."

"He's just one voice," said the woman. "He's doing what he can."

The young woman smiled sarcastically and turned away, putting an end to the conversation.

"He's taking a courageous position for a seminarian," the other woman went on, looking to me for support.

I didn't understand any of this, and I said nothing. The woman finally gave up. The girl at my side winked at me, as if I were her ally.

But I was silent for a different reason. I was thinking, Seminarian? It can't be! He would have told me.

When he started to speak, I couldn't concentrate. I was sure he had spotted me in the audience, and I was trying to guess what he was thinking. How did I look to him? How different was the woman of twenty-nine from the girl of seventeen?

I noticed that his voice hadn't changed. But his words certainly had.

You have to take risks, he said. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

Every day, God gives us the sun--and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy. Every day, we try to pretend that we haven't perceived that moment, that it doesn't exist--that today is the same as yesterday and will be the same as tomorrow. But if people really pay attention to their everyday lives, they will discover that magic moment. It may arrive in the instant when we are doing something mundane, like putting our front-door key in the lock; it may lie hidden in the quiet that follows the lunch hour or in the thousand and one things that all seem the same to us. But that moment exists--a moment when all the power of the stars becomes a part of us and enables us to perform miracles.

Joy is sometimes a blessing, but it is often a conquest. Our magic moment helps us to change and sends us off in search of our dreams. Yes, we are going to suffer, we will have difficult times, and we will experience many disappointments--but all of this is transitory; it leaves no permanent mark. And one day we will look back with pride and faith at the journey we have taken.

Pitiful is the person who is afraid of taking risks. Perhaps this person will never be disappointed or disillusioned; perhaps she won't suffer the way people do when they have a dream to follow. But when that person looks back--and at some point everyone looks back--she will hear her heart saying, "What have you done with the miracles that God planted in your days? What have you done with the talents God bestowed on you? You buried yourself in a cave because you were fearful of losing those talents. So this is your heritage: the certainty that you wasted your life."

Pitiful are the people who must realize this. Because when they are finally able to believe in miracles, their life's magic moments will have already passed them by.

After the lecture, members of the audience rushed up to him. I waited, worried about what his first impression of me would be after so many years. I felt like a child--insecure, tense because I knew none of his new friends, and jealous that he was paying more attention to the others than to me.

When he finally came up to me, he blushed. Suddenly he was no longer a man with important things to say but was once again the boy who had hidden with me at the hermitage of San Sat£rio, telling me of his dream to travel the world (while our parents were calling the police, sure that we had drowned in the river).

"Pilar," he said.

I kissed him. I could have complimented him on his presentation. I could have said I was tired of being around so many people. I could have made some humorous remark about our childhood or commented on how proud I was to see him there, so admired by others.

I could have explained that I had to run and catch the last bus back to Zaragoza.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 82 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2010

    What a truly beautiful read

    After reading the Alchemist I have been hooked...this is my fifth Paulo Coelho book that I have read. Like all the others, there is a very deep and heavy this book its about the power of love, forgiveness and making sure to recognize that magic moment which can change your life forever a.k.a Fate. This was my favorite book thus far from my favorite Author!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2006

    true love

    I've read the book twice. What can say, but it never cease to consume me...I believe in the redemptive and transforming reality of love.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2006


    By the River Piedra I sat down and wept is about two characters who fell inlove with each other eversince they were young. One of them decided to seek a journey of his own, the other decided to take the simple life in their town just like the other ordinary people. the one who went away fr a journey tried to search for his purpose, and he was able to defeat it. however, when the two of them met again, there came a different realization. One has to change path to have the other and find a different purpose in life. it's about sacrifice and decisions whether which of your priorities will give you more happiness.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2006

    Love and Faith

    The author brought two first loves since the beginning of their existence back together in this story next to the river of life and spiritual faith that carved their lives and souls since they were young and they became complete at the end. It reflected my own life except my first love died and I never met her again. It was a beautiful story. It was very beautiful.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2005


    My heart swallowed the 'The Alchemist' in the very depths of it! I am the new Santiago looking for the treasure: giving the 100% from the talents God has given me. May the Lord grant to Paolo Cohelo a place in His Heavenly Kingdom because many were enlightened and returned to the Right Path by reading his books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2000

    Beautifully written

    I can somehow relate to this book, Paulo has a way of painting the scene vividly. Life and love is defined fully in this well written book. I apreciate the art of written word, all of Paulos books seem to be written so well! his words and metaphors to each of his books have powerful meaning and leave the reader with an impact of knowledge. This book is lovely and beautiful, true art.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2005

    By The River Piedra, I Sat Down & Wept

    A Story of passion and spiritual adventure. This passion story of love is ocurs in seven days after eleven years. two lovers met together again. Pilar, a country, independent, practical,insecure and afraid to the unknown while her lover is spiritual teacher adventure and understand miracles of life, willing to take risk and ready for the unexpected. But at the end of their journey, they both reafirm their love each other and deciede to stay together with the guide of The Virgin Maria by their side.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2005

    I learned more about God in this book

    This book was very interesting, because it has a lot of information about the bible, and there is a romance between two character. This is something good for all readers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2004

    Coehlo is a Literary Genius!!! Oh, and I'm 14

    Paulo Coehlo is amazing.The simplicity of his words show that literature doesn't have to be overly complicated to be profound and groundbreaking.Those who believe that a book must have 5 syllable words, hidden meanings, and a general air of being superior, apparently don't understand the true meaning of writing-which is to express a point of view that comes from the heart, periods of deep contemplation, and a love for the art that is being an author. Mr.Coehlo expresses this and more, and I must say, I am quite a fan.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2004

    Best Paulo Cohelo's book after The Archemist

    This book certainly moved most of my most intimate feelings. In a disctintively style, Cohelo described the most mistycal sexual tension between two persons that are not meant to be togheter. On the other hand, this book invites to make a deep instrospection about life and purpose. This book made me realized that eventhough sometimes we want to run away from love, it finds creative ways to reach us.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2004

    Don't weep, but get up and get your money back

    This book is so simple, at a level many a high school student would not be proud of. I cannot believe this was written by an adult for adults. Its language is too simple; lacking any depth or emotion. It's an insult to anyone's intelligence to have to muddle through this muck of words to eventually find its message. Even the love story and the relationship with God does not rise above the level of the mind of an adolescent.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2004

    A Book for Eloquent and Intellectual Readers

    I read this book in Spanish, and I have to say that it completely blew me away. Coelho has the ability to place you right in the time frame, Country, and even the room that they are sitting in. I pity the people who have to learn to appreciate poetry, and the people who don't quite understand great poetry. These are the people who would actually think this book isn't good. Any one who grew up with love and understanding for poetry would see the beauty in this book. I highly recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2004

    Coelho just is great!

    I read someone's opinion here saying Coelho is not a good writer and that people thinking he is are fooled.. well, his books made me dream, smile, sometimes cry so I guess that's it! I've been fooled or cheated or something! What is for sure is that anyone can read Coelho and it's writing can have a meaning to anyone and that's not the case of all (good) writers

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2003

    I sat down by the river Piedra and wept with despair

    As a Brazilian woman who is very fond of literature and very proud of our variety of excellent writers, it fails me completely to understand the appeal Paulo Coelho has all over the world. I don't understand why a man who writes nothing coherent, nothing good, nothing but a bunch of words put together, can deceive so many people in all the countries he is published. Translators: congratulations, because you have certainly performed a fine task! The River Piedra was the only book by Coelho I read and it simply drove me away from the other books written by the man. Do not waste your money and time and energy reading this poor cheap piece of what he proudly believes to be intelectual literature. He has millions of fans in Brazil, all right, but millions of people who simply share the same opinion as I do. We have many fine writers. Abraham Lincoln said once that 'you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.' To those ones who were fooled by him: open up your eyes!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2003

    Tt has given me hope!

    maybe ,at this time of my life i was destened to read it : i desparately needed a Guidance, as much as i needed a Hope. I felt,the book was written about myself,and about the person i love. I am very grateful: now i can see more clearly my life path , and now i have a hope: yes,miracles happen to those , who have courage and faith, who believe in themselves , who are driven with a constant desire for personal growth. I may have known it before,but now my 'believing' and'knowing' is transformed into rediscovered Faith,and i am opened to 'guidance' wich will lead me to my spiritual path. The ultimate message he gives: live,don't fear to open your heart,love , always follow your dreams,and you will be rewarded with ultimate happiness; and miracles will also happen to you-

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2003

    Highly Recommended

    Pablo Cuelho has this great style in writing--it is as if you feel what he is trying to convey through his characters; whether it is pain, joy, hanpiness, etc. I especially love this book because I see a lot of myself in Pilar--and how she tries to always do 'what is right' instead of simply listening to her heart. I love Pablo's use of 'the other' in the book. I also like how he brings together the concepts of love and religion. I highly recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2002

    It's just so wonderful and true...

    This book is so great!!! It's just amazing if you take a look at the way Paulo Coelho writes books and especially how he can faszinate you with his descriptions. I couldn't stop reading the book.It's wonderful written and the pure truth about love and life and how we should wake up,love our life and be happy about the small miracles which happen every day around us... This book is in any case worth reading it.I recommended it to all my friends and they love it!Just enjoy this book and experience the small miracles life gives us every day...;)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2001


    This book is absolutely breathtaking. I've read books that were as good, but nothing quite like this. That's all I'll say. Just read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2001


    In this book, Paulo Coelho, shows the importance and the strength of love. Love is everything and the most important thing in our life. Don't let it go... Beautifully written, magic, and deeply romantic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2000

    There's more to life than meets the eye~

    This is a story of how the mundane gets transformed into a spiritual journey that opens our hearts to the mysteries and delights of love. Pilar's life reflects the ordinariness of our lives; our misgivings; our disappointments. Her path to realising the godliness of love is our journey through life and finding a glorious whole at the end of it....with a resounding measure of faith in our own destiny thrown in!

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