Spoiler Alert, the following book review reveals details about the plot.
This book is an awful roller-coaster. It annoyed me and made me sad at times. It was not what I expected. It seemed that certain chapters were taken from somewhere else and put into a wrong book. I kept reading it and I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that there is a meaning to it, there is something that the author is trying to tell me but I can’t get it. It was hidden somewhere, under the layers of confusion, depression, pure rage, religion and what not. The main character contradicts herself many times throughout and I am unable to connect with her on any level, but not because I have never experienced what she’s going through. If that was the case I would only enjoy reading books that describe what I have personally been through, I would learn nothing new and gain barely any knowledge. I don’t read books to read something I already know. I did not connect with Linda, because I felt like there was a different main character in each chapter. It felt as if, yet again, different stories from different books have been mixed together. Parts of her were being brought out, just out of nowhere. Suddenly, she was being religious, then she was a good mother, then she gave a blowjob to ex-boyfriend without much thought, followed by her randomly taking drugs (not necessarily in that order).
This book is not what I expected from the author. He not so much entered a new genre within his writing. You can still see few glimpses of what you would expect this book to be like, based on his previous work. Ultimately what I guess the story is trying to tell is that in each of us you can find a monster, inner dark ghosts if you will. Very often we dismiss them or pretend not to see them, but in this story Linda embraces the demon in order to overcome it once and for all. To find the light from the darkness. But you don’t feel it in this book. I have actually only thought about that after I read it and started to write this review. The story and the meaning don’t seem to work together, it looks like the author really wanted to share one of them with us and came up with the other one just for the sake of it.
Ultimately, I have decided to give this book 3/5 stars. Maybe it deserved 2, but the reason I gave it 3 is because I saw the glimpses of light that I want to see in Paulo Coelho’s work. I saw the author’s insights that had made me fall in love with his previous work. I saw the life advises to us, readers, which an experienced person is trying to carry on.
“Going after a dream has a price. It may mean abandoning our habits, it may make us go through hardships, or it may even lead us to disappointment, et cetera. But however costly it may be, it is never as high as the price paid by people who didn’t live. Because one day they will look back and hear their own heart say: “I wasted my life.”.”-pg. 239
“This is because things that don’t end clearly always leave a door open, an unexplored possibility, a chance that everything might still go back to being as it was before.”-pg. 245
The plot as a whole is relatively straight forward, a wealthy woman who has pretty much everything – money, a happy family and a loving husband, despite all this, is unable to find happiness. Very early we learn that:
“Today I am a woman torn between the terror that everything might change and the equal terror that everything might carry on exactly the same for the rest of my days.” From pg.4
Linda shows signs of depressions, not being able to find joy in an everyday life, forcing herself to get out of bed each morning, etc, but she does not want to take any medication. I liked that aspect, I liked she wanted to take on the depression head on without being fed pills daily, that she wanted to understand the problem, rather than fight the symptoms and hope it goes away. The part that gave me awfully mixed feelings is the part after that.
Linda has met up with her ex-boyfriend, Jacob, back from school days, for an interview. She’s a journalist, and he’s now a successful politician. And after chatting for a bit, she gives him a blowjob. Just like that,because it feels good. Not really thinking twice, about her husband or the family or anything really.
They decide to meet up again. Linda, without talking to her husband (or anybody else than Jacob for this matter) about her depression or about what troubles her, falls in love with the ex-boyfriend all over again on that second lunch. And the reason she does so, is because he is also unhappy with his current life and has shared it with her.
“At that precise moment- it’s 1:55 p.m., according to my watch- I fall in love with him all over again. No one, not even my marvellous husband, has ever asked if I’m happy”. Pg.37
The story continues and the next thing I realised while I read it, was that she changes her mind about love every few chapters or so. It goes like this: “I love Jacob; I don’t actually love Jacob it’s just the lust that I’m feeling; I do love Jacob” and so forth. I do understand Linda is not really in control over herself or her life, but this constant contradiction left me very confused and not really able to understand the main character.
Linda has finally chosen to share feelings with her husband and he could not have been any more understanding and kind about it the way he was, doing everything he can think of to help the love of his life. After that talk, Linda is finally feeling some guilt over what she’s doing, I feel like only then she starts to comprehend her actions, but then… this happens:
“You don’t choose your life; it chooses you. There’s no point asking why life has reserved certain joys or griefs, you just accept them and carry on. We can’t choose our lives, but we can decide what to do with the joys or griefs we’re given.” Pg.91
I read this paragraph 3 times and after each time I said “Fuck no”. Yes, obviously you cannot choose where or to whom you are born. You cannot choose whether your family is poor or rich, kind or a monster, there are things that are not up to you. So in that sense, we don’t choose out lives. But saying that you just have to accept the joys and griefs given to you? Big “no” for me. You can make them happen, you choose whether to grief or to enjoy moments in life, you choose how you respond to certain situations. You should never wait for those joys to happen to you and then accept them, MAKE them happen. That’s is all up to you! I felt like that sentence should not be here at all, it seemed out of place and it really annoyed me, because few chapters before that she decided to give ex-boyfriend a blowjob. Life didn’t chose this joy for her, she has decided so. Yet again, I see contradiction. And I did not have time to recover, because after that Linda has decided to destroy Jacob’s marriage. More specifically, she has bought a large amount of drugs to try and frame Jacob’s wife as a drug dealer. That idea comes out of nowhere, right after Linda is justifying her actions with Christian Bible. This book has frustrated me throughout, to say the least and this is just another example. I found it to be out of place, simply because there was no indication for Linda to be in any way religious and suddenly entire chapter emerges where she is trying to justify her awful actions with it. Later on it is also followed with different religious stories, which yet again come out of nowhere and the only reason for them is for Linda not to feel guilty. When I read those, I felt like the entire chapter was out of context and very random.
“My absurd infatuation with a man who, by now, must think he’s being harassed. My marriage to a man who seems close, but who never shows his weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The desire to destroy someone I met only once, on the pretext that it will do away with my inner ghosts.”
Oh yea did I mention that Linda has actually tried the drugs to make sure they’re real, before trying to plant them? Well… she did. Mentioned by the writer in a sentence. 1 sentence. She ultimately doesn’t plant the drugs into the wife’s office, not because she has finally started to think clear, but because she couldn’t find a good place to hide it. That’s it.
I could continue on, going chapter by chapter, but ultimately she tells her husband about her lover and let’s be honest, surprisingly, he is OK with it, he loves her so much that whatever makes her happy is acceptable, even adultery. She breaks it off with Jacob and she and her husband go away for few days for a romantic getaway in the city they visited when they were younger. The husband gets drunk and emotional, showing for the first time his weaknesses.
Over the last 20 pages, the couple decides to do something new, fun and crazy and decide to paraglide. Linda is resistant at first but while she’s doing it, she experiences an epiphany, regarding love mostly, but also how losing herself within the dark monster has brought her back into the light and therefore back to her husband and her family. It has taught her the most important lesson: learning to love.
Well, wouldn’t the plot of this book suit the moral and the lesson better if it was more like those last 20 pages? Was the adultery really necessary in order for Linda to come back to the light, or could she seek help from people who cared and loved for her sooner? Well, I know my answer.