By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept: A Novel of Forgiveness

( 54 )

Overview

From Paulo Coelho, author of the international bestseller The Alchemist, comes a poignant, richly poetic story that reflects the depth of love and life.

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 devoted childhood friend has grown into a handsome and charismatic spiritual leader. She has learned well how to bury her feelings . . ...

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Overview

From Paulo Coelho, author of the international bestseller The Alchemist, comes a poignant, richly poetic story that reflects the depth of love and life.

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 devoted childhood friend has grown into a handsome and charismatic spiritual leader. She has learned well how to bury her feelings . . . and he has turned to religion as a refuge from his raging inner conflicts.

Now they are together once again, embarking on a journey fraught with difficulties, as long-buried demons of blame and resentment resurface after more than a decade. But in a small village in the French Pyrenees, by the waters of the River Piedra, a most special relationship will be reexamined in the dazzling light of some of life's biggest questions.

"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: 9780061122095
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/23/2006
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: TRANSLATION
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 115,751
  • Product dimensions: 7.98 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Meet the Author

Paulo Coelho

The Brazilian author Paulo Coelho was born in 1947 in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Before dedicating his life completely to literature, he worked as theater director, actor, lyricist, and journalist. Coelho wrote song lyrics for many famous performers in Brazilian music, such as Elis Regina and Rita Lee, yet he is best known for his work with Raul Seixas. Together they wrote such successes as "Eu nasci há dez mil anos atrás" ("I Was Born Ten Thousand Years Ago"), "Gita," and "Al Capone."

His fascination with the spiritual quest dates back to his hippie days, when he travelled the world learning about secret societies, oriental religions, etc. In 1982, Coelho published his first book, Hell Archives, which failed to make any kind of impact. In 1985, he contributed to the Practical Manual of Vampirism, although he later tried to take it off the shelves, since he considered it "of bad quality." In 1986, Paulo Coelho did the pilgrimage to Saint James of Compostella, an experience later to be documented in his book The Pilgrimage.

Biography

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
( 54 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Good book with many good gems to learn from. It is a book based

    Good book with many good gems to learn from. It is a book based mostly upon a religious spiritual journey so be ready to learn more about God and your relationship with God. Great beginning but I just started getting lost in the story and what was occuring during the end of the book... so which sort of left me unsatisfied.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2011

    Recommended for the realist and romantic alike!!

    Despite reading the Alchemist first, this has been the book that made a Cohelo fan of me. I've read it 3 times. Mostly because it illustrates the complexity of a love conflict between two people with opposite personalities, different coping mechanism, dealing with same experience... Considering myself a realist at heart I identify with Pilar the female protagonist, and her struggle to re-discover her repressed feelings and intuition. Every time I've read it, it has renewed my own believe and trust in love, spirituality, and connectedness.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    Redundant and predictable

    I love Coelho's style and generally find his work inspiring, enlightening and deeply touching. Unlike The Alchemist, The Pilgrimage and the Devil and Miss Prym, I found this one reduntant and highly predictable. Will continue reading Coelho, and look foreward to reconnecting w/the spirit of his material and not rushing through to finish the book as I did this time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 24, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    One of my Favorites.

    I love this book. So far I have added four of Paulo Coelho's books to my library and this one is my Favorite after the Alchemist. I can't put these books down, they have such good messages and amazing stories to get these messages through to the reader. This book had such a good message about letting go of your insecurities and letting in the people that belong in you life. I would recommend this book to anyone and can't wait to read it again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2008

    Great book

    I been reading Paulo for 5 yrs I love hes books This is one of my favorite books. I never let that book go down eben in th ebath I read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2006

    Love, with a religious aspect

    At first I thought this book would be amazing, but after getting further into it, it began to drag on. I really liked some of the passages on love and the struggle against and with that. However, it got very religious about half way through, and that made me not like the novel as much.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2006

    Beautiful Story

    The first book of Paulo Coelho's that I read was 'The Zahir,' which didn't fascinate me as much as everyone else said, but I still enjoyed his style of writing and so I bought 'By The River Piedra I Sat Down And Wept.' This book took me by surprise in the fact that it was so much better than I imagined it would be. Not only was it beautifully written, but it's subject on religious brought about a different feel to the story along with the love line. Today, this is my favorite book of all time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing story with a great message. This is another must read f

    Amazing story with a great message. This is another must read from this great author.

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  • Posted November 17, 2011

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    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 26, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Paul Coehlo books are a must read.

    Paul Coelho is an amazing author! His profound insight and gentle style of writing has touched my heart. I also recommend The Alchemist and Warrior of the Light. I can not wait to read all his books. Life is a journey and the direction we choose is our responsibility!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2011

    Not one of his best, in my personal opinion

    Paulo Coehlo is my favorite author and I have read almost all his books. This one however, did not intrigue me as much as Brida or The Alchemist. Don't get me wrong, I still think the book was ok, but maybe suited for someone more who can relate to the story better than I can.

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