It is not too often when I come across a book that can touch people in so many different ways. In reading The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho we find a character named Athena whose very life force touched everyone in many different ways. It does not matter what faith you are aligned with, this book will connect with you and draw you in. My very long time Christian friend suggested this book to me, and I was not expecting the powerful message that this book revealed, and how it can be shared by so many different faiths, touching them in a way that they can understand.
In The Witch of Portobello, Athena is a woman touched by the divine spark, searching for ways to connect to God, The Mother, and The Divine. It almost seems as if no one faith could contain her, she had to expand her spiritual mind, or wither and die and yet that did not save her in the end.The author took a different approach to narration. The narrator wants to share the story of Athena to the world, and therefore decided to write the biography of Athena. He transcribed interviews with people who shared their feelings, thoughts and memories of Athena. By doing this, we as the readers get to see how Athena was perceived by others, how they reacted to her, and their true feelings about her. Some saw what they wanted to see in Athena: a teacher, a mother, a wife, a witch, a priestess, or a manipulator. Athena may have been all those things and more; but in the end, no one really understood Athena and what she was trying to do. I have a feeling Athena was not always sure herself, she was just following the path less traveled as she quoted in the book, and doing what she was pulled to do.The one thing that I came to realize by reading this book is: the world will see us the way it wants to see us no matter how hard we try to change its mind. All we can do is live the life we want, try to find the divine in our own way, and not worry about what others think of us, because most of the time they get it wrong (but you cannot tell them that—they do not listen).
In reading this book, Athena helped me to be a better teacher to students I currently teach and those I will teach in the future by reminding me of the concept: “learning through teaching”. One cannot claim to know all for we learn through the help of others, even when we are the teachers. She inspired me to drop my inhibition, and dance to connect with the Mother without worrying of what others might think. Now I know that Athena is a fictional character from the mind of a Brazilian author, but you can feel her power, her spirit emanating from the papers in this book. Read it, and see how this story touches your life.
Review by: Lady Arawyn Lyonesse