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About the Book

About the Book

The Fifth Mountain

When the novel begins, the year is 870 B.C., and the prophet Elijah is in his early twenties and fleeing for his life. His death has been ordered by the beautiful but implacable Jezebel, wife of Israel's King Ahab. His "crime": denouncing the false gods that Jezebel has brought from her native Phoenicia, known to the Hebrews as Lebanon. Through an angel, God orders Elijah to make the arduous journey across the desert and take refuge in the Phoenician city of Zarephath, which its inhabitants call Akbar. 

There, Elijah is befriended by a widow, older than him, who offers him lodging with her and her young son. Like her countrymen, she is a worshipper of Baal, who is said to reside with the other gods at the fog-shrouded summit of the Fifth Mountain. Still, she and the Israelite gradually form a warm bond, though neither dare voice their feelings. 

But events conspire against Elijah. When the woman's son becomes ill and dies, the blame falls on Elijah, who is accused of having brought misfortune with him. Taken before the High Priest of Akbar, he is condemned to die on the Fifth Mountain, from which no man returns. There, the priest declares, either he will be consumed by the fire from heaven or, should the gods choose not to sully their hands with him, upon his descent he will be beheaded in the city square. 

On the Fifth Mountain, an angel of God directs him to descend and, through God's power, restore the boy to life. The people of Akbar, interpreting the miracle as a sign of the gods' favor, hail the Israelite as a sage. Soon he is settling disputes among the townspeople and becomes an adviser to the governor, evoking the wrath of the high priest. 

As his feelings for the widow and her son grow, Elijah is torn between an earthly love he has never known and the desire to return to Israel and remove Jezebel from the throne, destroying idolatry and restoring the worship of the One God. But he must remain in Akbar until the Lord orders him to depart. 

Phoenicia, the commercial center of the Mediterranean at this time, has a merchant fleet that trades throughout the known world. But the country's wealth draws the covetous attention of the Assyrians, who begin gathering a force to conquer the coastal cities of Sidon and Tyre -- and Akbar lies strategically in the advancing army's path. Soon Elijah finds himself at the center of a military and political maelstrom that challenges his faith and forces him to confront the unavoidable. 

Out of the tragedy that emerges, Elijah learns lessons that are applicable to all of humankind and are as timeless as the desert sands and the mountains that gaze silently down on the ashes of Akbar. In a resolution that resonates vividly for modern men and women, he wrests from the unavoidable a new beginning, an opportunity to give meaning to tragedy and direction to a shattered life.

The Fifth Mountain
by Paulo Coelho

  • Publication Date: February 17, 1999
  • Paperback: 245 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0060930136
  • ISBN-13: 9780060930134