Monday, December 1, 2008

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I really enjoyed this book. I have to say I was getting a little confused by the end because I’ve heard from so many people that it was a great book, so I was waiting for the punch. I knew it must be coming. =) I was waiting for that moment when it would surprise me and everything I thought would be turned on its head. And I have to say, I was not disappointed!

I really enjoyed Coelho’s use of spiritual imagery as well. At first, it was a little startling, but after awhile, I felt like he was able to create a sort of “every” religion, if you will. I think people of all faiths can relate to his sense of spirituality, and I think that is a really difficult thing to do, especially without causing controversy. +/-

Honestly, my favorite part was the time he spent with the crystal merchant. Fleshing out his “beginner’s luck” with a person who doesn’t like change and is mostly pessimistic about life. The juxtaposition of the two, the crystal merchant and the boy, made the merchant seem foolish to me. Without the optimism of the boy and his eagerness to make life better, I would have thought the merchant prudent, maybe, but mostly reasonable and practical. But considering what the boy was able to do for his business, it made me think of all the times I’ve felt like I’ve had a good idea, maybe even experienced a little “beginner’s luck,” but then shook my head and said, “No way, won’t work. Nevermind. What am I thinking of.”

The merchant also believed that he’d rather have his unattainable wish because otherwise he would have nothing to dream of. Once you get the carrot on the stick, it no longer propels you forward—a very interesting theory. I think I identified the most with him, erring on the side of caution too much. Just think of what the boy would have missed out on if he had given up his quest.

*spoiler ahead*

And that brings me to my final thought. I absolutely loved the end of this book. It was beyond perfection. And, I really think, although Santiago finds his chest of gold at the end of the long journey, his real treasure was just that. If his dream had told him that the treasure was under his nose all along, he never would have learned what he did or found true love. Although he would have avoided heartbreaking disappointment and pain, his life would have been considerably emptier. His treasure was not only the experience, but the effect that that experience will have on the rest of his life. The only trouble is you can never tell what will pay off; it’s inexplicably frightening, walking into the unknown. And that is the true beauty of taking risks and following a dream.

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