Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Veronika Decides To Die: A Short Rundown

As a fan of Paulo Coelho’s much-celebrated and classic book, The Alchemist, I stumbled upon Veronika Decides to Die through a  good friend's recommendation and was intrigued by the topic of the book and the major questions it asks about life and death. 

Inspired by events from his past, Coelho tells the story of Veronika, who seems to have everything in life that most people would envy and consider fulfilling, but who nonetheless feels dissatisfied and makes a decision to end her life by overdosing on sleeping pills.

Veronika, who attempts suicide, fails, is institutionalized, and is informed that her attempted suicide damaged her heart and she has only five days to live. In the hospital she has to come to grips with what it means to be dying, but also what it means to be insane.

“Decides” is the key word in the title of this book: Coelho weaves his storytelling around the major, life-altering decisions that the central characters—the protagonist and those with whom she interacts in the mental hospital—must ponder when they learn of her imminent death. 

With her days numbered, Veronika goes on a journey of self-discovery that makes her contemplate her original reasons for wanting to die as well as the meaning of life as a whole. 

Readers join Veronika in her self-discovery quest by inquiring what they themselves would do if they were to learn that the ends of their lives were happening in a matter of days, rather than in the several years ahead, which many people hope for.

In the end Veronika finds that she is truly free. She seems to have everything at the beginning of the story: a job, boyfriends, and popularity. However, they're those things that enslave her, and that’s what leads to the attempted suicide. 

In a way, Veronika is doubly freed. She is free because she is dying, and what can one do to a dying person. Second, she has been labeled crazy, and, having such a label, people expect her to act oddly. She has the freedom to do those things she has been too frightened to do all her life.

Thoughts About The Author 

Veronika Decides to Die made me fall in love even more with Coelho’s writing style, because he seamlessly introduces to the reader a vast expanse of topics revolving around spirituality and psychology. The writing resembles that of a teacher who gently instructs his students without acting like a pretentious know-it-all trying to force people to believe everything he teaches.

It offers food for thought rather than preachy absolute truths. As readers are engrossed in an engaging story that keeps them asking, “What will Veronika (and others) decide next?”, Coelho is a master at allowing his audience to absorb any new information without making them feel dumb for never having thought of or known about it before.

This book is not something to read once and then completely forget. It is meant to be one of those books in which the topics on psychology and spirituality make you want to do more research and reading in order to understand better the concepts being questioned.

Also, the events and characters in this book are bound to linger in readers’ thoughts well after the book is finished, simply because it will make them wonder about the exact meanings of their own lives, especially if the ends of their lives were happening a lot sooner than they expected. 

I’d recommend this book. It’s short, readable, and offers clear food for thought.

thanks for reading,

russ d'great