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 Coelho's profound new work, The Witch of Portobello. It is the story of a mysterious woman named Athena, told by the many who knew her well--or hardly at all. Among them:
"People create a reality and then become the victims of that reality. Athena rebelled against that--and paid a high price."
Heron Ryan, journalist
"I was used and manipulated by Athena, with no consideration for my feelings. She was my teacher, charged with passing on the sacred mysteries, with awakening the unknown energy we all possess. When we venture into that unfamiliar sea, we trust blindly in those who guide us, believing that they know more than we do."
Andrea McCain, actress
"Athena's great problem was that she was a woman of the twenty-second century living in the twenty-first, and making no secret of the fact, either. Did she pay a price? She certainly did. But she would have paid a still higher price if she had repressed her natural exuberance. She would have been bitter, frustrated, always concerned about 'what other people might think,' always saying, 'I'll just sort these things out, then I'll devote myself to my dream,' always complaining 'that the conditions are never quite right.'"
Deidre O'Neill, known as Edda
Like The Alchemist, The Witch of Portobello is the kind of story that will transform the way readers think about love, passion, joy, and sacrifice.
Multimillion-seller Coelho (The Devil and Miss Prym, etc.) returns with another uncanny fusion of philosophy, religious miracle and moral parable. The Portobello of the title is London's Portobello Road, where Sherine Khalil, aka Athena, finds the worship meeting she's leading--where she becomes an omniscient goddess named Hagia Sophia--disrupted by a Protestant protest. Framed as a set of interviews conducted with those who knew Athena, who is dead as the book opens, the story recounts her birth in Transylvania to a Gypsy mother, her adoption by wealthy Lebanese Christians; her short, early marriage to a man she meets at a London college (one of the interviewees); her son Viorel's birth; and her stint selling real estate in Dubai. Back in London in the book's second half, Athena learns to harness the powers that have been present but inchoate within her, and the story picks up as she acquires a "teacher" (Deidre O'Neill, aka Edda, another interviewee), then disciples (also interviewed), and speeds toward a spectacular end. Coelho veers between his signature criticism of modern life and the hydra-headed alternative that Athena taps into. Athena's earliest years don't end up having much plot, but the second half's intrigue sustains the book. (May)
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May 14, 2007
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