Okay, I know. I wrote my review of The History of Love and gushed about it, and now you're all going to think that I only write gushy reviews. But here's the thing...this book *really* made me think about who I am and where I am going, and who I want to be as a woman, a wife, a soon-to-be-mother, a daughter, and a human.
I didn't always like Paulo Coehlo's work. I tried to read The Alchemist in college and the novel just didn't do it for me. But a friend recommended Veronika Decides to Die to me while a loved one was in the hospital for depression and I was struggling to understand what might be happening in there, and ever since, Coehlo has been one of my obsessions.
When I picked up The Witch of Portobello, I didn't know quite what to expect. The synopsis said "How do we find the courage to always be true to ourselves—even if we are unsure of whom we are? That is the central question of international bestselling author Paulo Coehlo's profound new work..."
"Oh. Profound," said the skeptic in me. "We'll just see about that."
But all I know is this...the protagonist of the book, Athena, follows a winding path to enlightenment in the form of a female deity. And along the way she struggles to transcend society's expectations of her. The book is about the power that everyone has to find their own spirituality and fight against the norm. And in spite of myself, the novel made me feel able to make my own decisions, both practical and spiritual.
Coehlo uses a number of narrators to flesh out Athena's story, and these differing perspectives add a real depth to the story line. As a reader, you like some narrators and dislike others, which gives you the ability to take what you like from each and leave the rest, creating your own picture of Athena as you go.
This is a book to be read slowly and with a great deal of self-reflection. It's not a breezy beach vacation read, but it's worth the work. It's a book about soul, so get ready to grapple with your own.