Friday, January 9, 2009

Two for the Price of One Book Review

Somehow, I forgot to do December's book review. Dang it. So I'm going to do two this month to make up for it.

First...

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

A story set in a small town about a boyhood friendship told over 50 years.

Lucy, an unfortunate nickname for one of the boys, has lived in the town all his life. It is his whole world and he sees no need to ever leave. He was devoted to Bobby, who grows up and leaves the town as soon as he can and eventually moves to Europe and becomes an artist.

A decent story, the characters are vivid, and the events are real. But the book is a little drawn out, and the story becomes a bit stagnant at times. The end did not seem to fit with the rest of the book.

All of that aside, there are several themes worth exploring in the book... father/son relationships, love (romantic, friendship), the secrets we keep to protect those we care about and the secrets we keep from ourselves.

Second...

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

A shepherd takes a journey from Spain to Egypt to find treasure in the pyramids and fulfill his personal legend. Along the way he meets several people who help him in his journey in different ways.

This book is not so much a story as it is a long parable meant for personal reflection. It serves as a good reminder that life is not about the treasure at the end, it's about enjoying the journey. Very few characters in the book are given names. Most of them are referred to by their titles (gypsy, king, alchemist). Even the main character's name is only mentioned once. This helps you to more easily reflect on your life as you ready.

We all have our own personal legend. It's a matter of listening to our hearts and following the signs along the way. We will endure suffering; it's a part of the journey. But we can't be afraid of the suffering, or allow it to prevent us from fulfilling our personal legend. One of the best quotes from the book...

Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity
Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. page 130
This is a great book to read at the start of a new year, or if you're just looking for a fresh start.

Next month... The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

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