I met with our fourth reader in a crowded cafe (pardon the occasional hiss of the espresso machine) to discuss the novel Veronika Decides to Die (1998) by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho. Our reader, a recent recipient of a Master’s in Social Work, discovered the novel during a self-guided study of fiction featuring narratives of mental illness. She was impressed by Coelho’s lyricism, his convincing protagonist, and his deconstruction of the stigma associated with mental institutions.
Who should read this book?
“When I read it I was going through a difficult time and a transition, [so] I would recommend it to a friend who maybe was struggling or feeling hopeless… We know that depression isn’t just about outlook on life, so it’s hard to [say], ‘Oh this book will change your outlook on life.’ Maybe someone who was struggling to find their place, to find out who they are. What this book [shows] is a woman who finally was able to be herself. Maybe it’s not about changing your outlook, but about letting your guards down.”
CW: Discussion of suicide and mental illness
Note: Please forgive my mistake in saying “wants” instead of “decides” when I did the intro to this interview. The obsessive English student inside me is screaming, “You fool! ‘Wants’ means something completely different! How could you!?”