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

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by Paulo Coelho, Alan R. Clarke
     
 

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From Paulo Coelho, author of the bestselling 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

Overview

From Paulo Coelho, author of the bestselling 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.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061122095
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/23/2006
Series:
P.S. Series
Edition description:
TRANSLATION
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
128,309
Product dimensions:
7.98(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.47(d)

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.

Meet the Author

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, The Winner Stands Alone, Aleph, Manuscript Found in Accra, and Adultery, among others, have sold over 175 million copies worldwide, and The Alchemist has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 360 weeks.

Paulo Coelho has been a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters since 2002, and in 2007, he was appointed United Nations Messenger of Peace. He is also the most followed author on social media.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Date of Birth:
August 24, 1947
Place of Birth:
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Education:
Left law school in second year
Website:
http://www.paulocoelho.com

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By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept: A Novel of Forgiveness 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Jordongdong More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
ESpindler_no1_Fan More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
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DeeDeeWillis More than 1 year ago
Amazing story with a great message. This is another must read from this great author.
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JackeRae More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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