Title: The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
Genres: inspirational allegory, self-help, book club selection
This was the second student-led pick for the Augusta University Book Worms. I would classify this book as an inspirational allegory; Coelho takes what would be cheesy one liners in a traditional self-help book and magically intertwines them into a story about Santiago, a young, shepherd boy who travels to the Egyptian pyramids based on a (literal) dream of buried treasure. This was the first time I have read a book by Paulo Coelho and I enjoyed it very much. After four years of heavy academic reading and writing, this simple book was a breath of fresh air. Some online book reviewers claim Coelho’s writing style as too simplistic, but that’s the point of an allegory- to be simple enough that anyone can understand it!
The themes of this allegory are pursuing your dreams and viewing the obstacles to your dream as a temporary rough patch on your journey. This journey, referred to in the book as a Personal Legend, is “the path God chose for you here on Earth” (x). While following their path, everyone encounters Four Obstacles to fulfilling their dream: 1. They are told that their dream is impossible and slowly and invisibly begin to internalize this message. 2. Love; they are afraid that pursuing our dream will hurt their loved ones but “love is just a further impetus, not something that should prevent us from going forward.” 3. Fear of the defeats they will encounter along the way (in other words, worry and anxiety over the unknown). 4. Fear of “realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives” (guilt about their success and blessings).
After saving his hard-earned money for two years, Santiago travels from Andalusia, Spain to Tangier, Morocco. He immediately learns the hard way to not trust strangers yet also learns that strangers can also be kind as a local shopkeeper helps Santiago get back on his feet and recoup his earnings. Eventually, Santiago begins his perilous journey across the Sahara to his beloved and mysterious pyramids. Of course, more adventures and life lessons wait for him in the desert…but does his treasure?