Veronica Decides to Die

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Plot Summary
In his brilliant novel about the aftermath of a young woman's suicide attempt, Paulo Coelho explores three perennial themes: conformity, madness, and death. Twenty-four-year-old Veronika lives in Slovenia, one of the republics created by the dissolution of Yugoslavia. She works as a librarian by day, and by night carries on like many single women -- dating men, occasionally sleeping with them, and returning to a single room she rents at a convent. It is a life, but not a very compelling one. So one day, Veronika decides to end it. Her failed attempt, and her inexplicable reasons for wanting to die, land her in a mental hospital, Vilette. Veronika's disappointment at having survived suicide

is palpable. She imagines the rest of her life filled with disillusionment and monotomy, and vows not to leave Vilette alive. Much to her surprise, however, she learns that a fate she desires awaits her anyway: She is destined to die within a week's time, of a heart damage caused by her suicide attempt. Gradually, this knowledge changes Veronika's perception of death and life.

In the meantime, Vilette's head psychiatrist attempts a fascinating but provocative experiment. Can you "shock" someone into wanting to live by convincing her that death is imminent? Like a doctor applying defibrillator paddles to a heart attack victim, Dr. Igor's "prognosis" jump-starts Veronika's new appreciation of the world around her. From within Vilette's controlled environment, she finally allows herself to express the emotions she has never allowed herself to feel: hate and love, anger and joy, disgust and pleasure. Veronika also finds herself being drawn into the lives of other patients who lead constrained but oddly satisfying lives. Eduard, Zedka, and Mari have been sent to Vilette because there doesn't seem to be any other place for them. Their families don't understand them, and they can't adjust to the social structure that doesn't tolerate their individuality. Each of...
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