The latest spirituality-lite novel from Coelho (The Winner Stands Alone, 2009, etc.).
The narrative focuses on a character named Paulo who has had a wildly successful novel (The Alchemist, 1993) and who is embarking on a book-signing binge on the Trans-Siberian railway, stopping at various spots from Moscow to Vladivostock. Paulo, it seems, is in the midst of a spiritual crisis, for life has lost its savor. His spiritual guru, cryptically named J., advises him to reconnect to his life by getting into the present moment, a mystic space called the Aleph. Paulo agrees, for after all he claims that, “To live is to experience things, not sit around pondering the meaning of life”—as though any good could come out of that sort of reflective activity. Paulo’s wife is all in favor of having him take this journey—or perhaps she’s interested merely in getting him out of the house for a while. Just before the journey begins, Paulo meets Hilal, a violinist who can bring him to tears with the beauty of her playing. She seems familiar to Paulo, however, and it turns out that he’s known her before—roughly 500 years before, when he had been a monk and she had come before the Inquisition for having had sexual relations with Satan. They’ve both been given another opportunity together in the present so Paulo can make amends, both to Hilal and to several other women he’d mistreated in cosmic time. While he finds himself sexually attracted to Hilal, he remains technically chaste—well, kind of, though it’s possible his wife might not see it that way.
For readers who admire books filled with goofy yet endearing spiritual clichés such as, “Death is just a door into another dimension."