This book was lent to me by a friend who had previously recommended The Alchemist by the same author a few years ago. I had quite enjoyed The Alchemist, although it never reached the 'life changing' heights as it has done with so many others. The cover illustration for this one had caught my eye when it was first published so I was glad to try it.
The story is narrated by an unnamed author whose wife, Esther, a war correspondent, has gone missing. The story starts just after our narrator is being questioned by the police in Paris, where he lives, regarding her disappearance. It is known that she was reporting in Kazakhstan, but it is not known whether her disappearance was voluntary or if she was kidnapped, or even if she is ill somewhere. Our author determines to find her but his search for her and her absence becomes an obsession, a Zahir according to Islamic tradition, that takes over his mind in an unhealthy way. Is his search for her as she is or for her as he wants her to be? Is his obsession built on selfish grounds because he cannot stand the thought that she needs time away from their relationship, which had become stale? His wife has initiated a change that he was not ready for.
The narrators search takes him on a physical and spiritual journey, where he meets many characters who have come across his wife on her own spiritual journey. He learns a lot about her and their relationship. But mostly he learns about himself.
This book was really quick to read, the narrative style being simple to follow. I found it a little more involving than The Alchemist which is probably down to the translation, the original being in Portuguese.
I found the story quite interesting, following each step of the narrators journey of discovery and enlightenment. Some of the life lessons seemed a little obvious at times, although sometimes it is good to be reminded, to make you think. I know Coelho has legions of fans whose lives have been touched by the life lessons that come over in his books. Sadly I have never felt quite so strongly, or been touched so dramatically by his words. I did like this book though and found a lot of its points interesting. I am sure that his books will provide a lot for book groups to discuss. Will I read any more of his books? That remains to be seen.
You can have a look at Paulo Coelho's blog by clicking the link.