The Zahir by Paulo Coelho
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What a strange book. I've never read The Alchemist, even though I'm probably the only reader on the planet who hasn't, so this is my first book by Paulo Coelho. But I can understand why people like him. He's like a spiritual version of Ayn Rand, and by that, I mean he has a single message in mind that courses through his work. His message is one of finding the true meaning of life...whatever that is. I'm not sure I could read another book of his and take all that spiritual claptrap, but one book works for me, so I guess this will be that book.
Anywho, the story centers around an insufferable writer (at first) who loses his wife. But, he doesn't really "lose" her in the sense that we would typically think of. She hasn't died after all. At least not physically. But emotionally, she's dead to him. Their marriage has reached the point of ennui. She has lost her love for her husband (Or has she) and decided to leave him without giving a word of where she was going, and the author, who at first takes on a string of girlfriends, finally realizes that he misses her. In that way, his wife becomes his "Zahir," which is an object or thing that is in plain view that never goes away, but we still can't attain it, which ultimately drives us crazy.
Didn't I tell you this was a strange book? But that's not why it's so strange. It's the ending. What a downer. I really like the ending because it's not traditional. I won't spoil it here, but it really muddles the message for me, which I like. This is not the story of struggling and finally finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It's not some gritty, realistic ending either and it stays within the bounds of everything that is presented before it, so it doesn't just come out of left field. But I could understand why some might not appreciate it for what it is. Either way, by the halfway point of this book, I was really annoyed by the protagonist. But by the time the story reached the end, I found that I was engrossed and wanted to know how it would conclude. An interesting story, to be sure. I don't recommend it for everyone, but it has its merits and an interesting ending. I enjoyed it.
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