Thursday, April 04, 2013

Review: The Fifth Mountain

The Fifth Mountain
The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my second reading of The Fifth Mountain, a rarity in and of itself. I barely have time to read a book once, I don't usually get around to re-reading it. But it had been years since I had read Coelho's book, and so much has changed in my life since then that I wanted to see how/if the story still spoke to me.

The last time I picked up The Fifth Mountain, I was practicing yoga, and although I never embraced Coelho's whole New Age, Warrior of Light idea, I thought it interesting. But now that I've returned to my Catholic faith, I was curious to see how Coelho dealt with a major biblical figure, Elija.

As a writing project, I think Coelho did an amazing job. He filled in the blanks and re-told (re-imagined) a powerful story of faith. Sort of.

To the best of my knowledge, Elija did not write Warrior of Light, yet that is what Elija tells his young charge at the end of The Fifth Mountain. As an author, I can let that go. You can't fault an author for writing a tie-in to another one of his books. Just ask Stephen King.

The other idea that Coelho mentions is more complex and, to me, more troubling. As Elija imparts his wisdom to the widow's young son, whom he has promised to take care of, he re-tells the story of Jacob wrestling with a stranger (who turns out to be God). At daybreak, the stranger cannot beat Jacob in the contest, and wants to take his leave. Jacob, having recognized that he was wrestling with God, refuses to let him go, and then demands a blessing. God blesses him, and changes Jacob's name to Israel.

The lesson Elija imparts from this is: sometimes you gotta take the bull (or God) by the horns and wrestle from Him your destiny. If we add to this concept the New Age (read The Secret) ideas that the universe is there to do your bidding, peppered throughout The Fifth Mountain, it led to a disappointing and troubling read. Yes, the Jacob story is in the Bible (Genesis). So it must have an edifying purpose. But is the message to be gleaned a New Age message, where God is just one more celestial being in and among the universe who can/should be bullied into giving us what we want simply by whining about it long and loud enough? I don't think so.

So, to recap, The Fifth Mountain is a great story, obviously well-written, a fine piece of historical/Biblical fiction, but ultimately it fails in that, I suspect, many readers will come away thinking erroneously that the Bible is yet another New Age text, or worse, that the Bible supports New Age ideology.

~ JT ~

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blogger Wordpress Gadgets