Book Den Reviews: “The Alchemist”

I did not know how to feel when I first picked up “The Alchemist” and had made it through over half the book when I finally set it down. Something about Coelho’s writing made the book easy to read, and keep reading. I never felt lost, and I never had to look up an excessively complicated word.

The story featured a bit of a twist on the traditional coming-of-age tale, since the long adventure came to an end in a place more familiar to the character than anticipated. Instead of striking out to save the princess from the tower, he simply sets out to fulfill his personal destiny: finding a forgotten treasure trove. This character’s name, Santiago, gets mentioned perhaps once or twice. In fact, many of the characters do not have notable names at all. One of the ideas of the novel asserts that the universe always guides people towards their destinies. As vessels and members the universe they do not require names, because their titles and actions tell the reader all they must know of them.

Trust acts heavily as a catalyst for events in “The Alchemist” – trust in others, the universe and the heart. With the story’s assurance that the universe favors those in search of their destinies, the importance of trust seems natural. Santiago only ever moves forward when he removes himself from doubt and chooses to trust. Even in the face of unfavorable events he must trust, or he cannot move past them. Only once harm comes from trust, and even then when the protagonist chooses to keep working towards his destiny everything works out.

Strangely enough, the titular title character of the book does not play a major role until very near the end of Santiago’s journey. They link up in the desert oasis of Al-Fayoum after the young adventurer predicts an attack on the haven. The alchemist initiates the last of many trials and ensures Santiago will have every opportunity possible to fulfill his destiny. Once or twice before we formally meet him, short vignettes hint at his vast knowledge. Very mysterious.

In the end, “The Alchemist” simply celebrates the good that may come of pursuing one’s desires. Do not let dreams only remain dreams in 2017, dear readers.