Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
After an overdose, Veronika goes on living--and looking for life's meaning. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
The bestselling Brazilian author of The Alchemist delicately etches this morose but ultimately uplifting story of the suicidal Veronika, who creeps along the boundary between life and death, sanity and madness, happiness and despair. Veronika, 24, works in a library in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and rents a room in a convent; she is an attractive woman with friends and family, but feelings of powerlessness and apathy tempt her to find "freedom" in an overdose of sleeping pills. When Veronika awakens in the purgatory of Villete, the country's famous lunatic asylum, she is told her suicide attempt weakened her heart and she has only days to live. At this point, Coelho takes a role in the novel; he describes the circumstances under which he discovered Veronika's story and then recounts his own youthful incarceration in a Brazilian sanatorium, consigned there by parents who couldn't understand his "unusual behavior." As quickly as he drops in, however, he drops out again, relying on interior monologues to set scenes. In a sedative-induced haze, Veronika finds companionship in white-haired Mari, who suffers from panic attacks, and Eduard, an ambassador's son who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, and she begins to question the definition of insanity. It is her supposed death sentence from the devious Dr. Igor, who is trying to shock her back into reality, that allows Veronika to reacquire the will to live and love. Employing his trademark blend of religious and philosophical overtones, Coelho focuses on his central question: why do people go on when life seems unfair and fate indifferent? The simple, often banal prose contrasts Veronika's bleak inner landscape with the beautiful contours of Slovenia, gradually culminating in an upbeat ending with the message that each day of life is a miracle. Coelho's latest will appeal to readers who enjoy animated homilies about the worth of human existence. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Book Review
A touching, if overexplicit, fable about learning to live in the face of death. As he confides in an early chapter, Coelho himself (The Fifth Mountain, 1998, etc.) was apparently institutionalized simply because his adolescent behavior baffled his parents. Here, he returns to the world of mental hospitals indirectly via Veronika, a Ljubljana librarian who'tired of the fact that, at 24, she already finds every day like every other and can't imagine any future but increasing boredom, decay, and death'takes an overdose of sleeping pills. She awakens in Villette, Slovenia's notorious lunatic asylum, to learn that she's damaged her heart irreparably and has only a week to live. Initially rebelling against her keepers' solicitous rules and regulations (``I'm not here to preserve my life, but to lose it,' she reminds a nurse), she finds first her curiosity and then, gradually, her passions aroused by her fellow patients. Serbian Zedka Mendel, lacking a necessary brain chemical, endures megadoses of insulin that send her into comas. Mari, a lawyer who committed herself because she was suffering from panic attacks, has been asymptomatic for years but, divorced and forced into retirement, has nothing left to return to. Eduard, a 'schizophrenic' whose case seems most like Coelho's, is an ambassador's son who ended up in Villette after rejecting a diplomatic career to paint. Regrettably, however, Coelho, preaching the need to live your own life in the face of death and social regimentation, can't resist capping these often poignant stories with sanity-is-the-true-madness insights out of R.D. Laing and prosy homiletics ('It's what you are, not what others make of you') that seem to have been cribbed from a high- school health textbook. Imagine peering into the very heart of the mystical rose in Dante's Paradise and finding the neon injunction: 'TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.'