Book Review: Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho

I rate it 3.5 stars out of 5.


In his latest international bestseller, the celebrated author of The Alchemist addresses the fundamental questions asked by millions: What am I doing here today? and Why do I go on living?
Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything she could wish for: youth and beauty, plenty of attractive boyfriends, a fulfilling job, and a loving family. Yet something is lacking in her life. Inside her is a void so deep that nothing could possibly ever fill it. So, on the morning of November 11, 1997, Veronika decides to die. She takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up.

Naturally Veronika is stunned when she does wake up at Villete, a local mental hospital, where the staff informs her that she has, in fact, partially succeeded in achieving her goal. While the overdose didn't kill Veronika immediately, the medication has damaged her heart so severely that she has only days to live.

The story follows Veronika through the intense week of self-discovery that ensues. To her surprise, Veronika finds herself drawn to the confinement of Villete and its patients, who, each in his or her individual way, reflect the heart of human experience. In the heightened state of life's final moments, Veronika discovers things she has never really allowed herself to feel before: hatred, fear, curiosity, love, and sexual awakening. She finds that every second of her existence is a choice between living and dying, and at the eleventh hour emerges more open to life than ever before.

In Veronika Decides to Die, Paulo Coelho takes the reader on a distinctly modern quest to find meaning in a culture overshadowed by angst, soulless routine, and pervasive conformity. Based on events in Coelho's own life, Veronika Decides to Die questions the meaning of madness and celebrates individuals who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal. Poignant and illuminating, it is a dazzling portrait of a young woman at the crossroads of despair and liberation, and a poetic, exuberant appreciation of each day as a renewed opportunity.

Review: This year, I've been really bad at posting my book reviews soon after I've read them, so this one's been sitting in the draft pile for a while. To begin, I was never really interested in Coelho's books. My sister recommended I read The Alchemist, but somehow I couldn't bring myself to. One night I was flipping through movie trailers and I came upon the film adaption starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. I didn't watch the movie, but it did ignite my curiosity to read it. Never having read the back blurb or anything, I expected a psychological thriller.

It was not.

I figured that out pretty quickly in the first few chapters, but it still kept my interest. What drew me in was the characterization of Veronika and what drove the doctor to do what he did (sorry for the cryptic sentence, I don't want to spoil it!). Though this was a work of fiction it had a philosophical appeal to it, which I enjoyed. It also had an interesting commentary about society and the individual versus society. In short it's a book that makes you think a lot and contemplate about life and death. If you want something thought provoking then this is it. If you're looking for a plot packed story, this is not it. All in all, pretty quick read though sometime the pov switched which bogged me down at times, but over all worth the time.