By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

This is the story of Pilar, who has her sights set on the usual things -- marriage, a career -- only to have her childhood friend come back into her life and disrupt her plans, her preconceptions, and her goals. Pilar spends most of the book fighting against her emerging (re-emerging?) love for her nameless friend, and she only grows when she finally surrenders to her heart.

Throughout the story, Coelho draws parallels between human love and the Immaculate Conception -- Mama Mary submitted to the Lord despite knowing the persecution and fear and pain that she would suffer; and in the same way, those who love submit to it despite the possibility of rejection and loss.

Coelho also introduces readers to "the feminine aspect of God," which I interpreted as the life-giving and forgiving force in nature. Through one of his characters, the author distinguishes between the religious life and the spiritual life. He makes the point that all the major religions continue to be controlled by men. Perhaps the author is suggesting that the spiritual life, being more private and personal and individualized, is the one more likely to experience the miraculous and the divine? Is this where the "feminine" aspect comes in?

In any case, I concluded the following from Coelho's book: God is everywhere, She is in everyone and everything, and we don't need rituals to know Her grace; all we need is to be open and to listen to Her message, which comes to us always, from everywhere. I remember being taught this as a child: that in the silence of our hearts, we can speak with God. Coelho adds to that, and says: delight in the everyday, because in every moment God is with us. Like Pilar, we must accept love when it comes to us, even when we are fearful of losing it.

My favorite sentence in the book: "All love stories are the same." Because God is love. Amen.