Summer Reading Series - The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Reviewed by Kacie Rice

The Alchemist is easily in my top ten book list of all time. This book takes you on an unimaginable expedition through the Andalusian country side of Spain all the way to the Pyramids in Egypt, so if you are in the mood for adventure, exquisite storytelling and transformative literature, this book is ideal for you! There are also a lot of quotes from the book that will stick with you even after you read it, they serve as good mantras if you are in need of guidance! Paulo is truly one of the most magical story tellers of this generation, his easy to follow narrative will keep you hooked till the last page. There are many valuable lessons that we can take away from this book but, I feel that the lesson we take away depends on what our hearts are seeking. This book is very significant to me because it accompanied me during a time of change and ambivalence.

In the book our Shepard boy Santiago starts out quite content, until he is troubled by a recurring dream. When he goes to the next town in his excursion, he seeks out help from a Gypsy, she tells him to follow his dreams. Santiago is very frightened and does not want to part with his flock, so he ignores the Gypsy’s advice and continues on his journey. Paulo is touching on the subject of fear and how without risk, there is no reward. Any new expedition can be petrifying but without having the courage to take the first steps, we will never know the outcome. So, we must find it in ourselves to be courageous and take a leap of faith. 
The next stop Santiago makes he meets an older gentleman that addresses himself as the King of Salem. He teaches Santiago about his obligation to fulfill his personal legend and also being able to read omens that the universe gives him. The lesson that I take away from this conversation is that, we must learn to always take action in our lives, especially when omens from the universe are present. The King of Salem wanted to help Santiago take action in his personal legend, so he gifted him Urim and Thummim, which are stones that help determine omens and are the essential inspiring factors for Santiago. Because of the encounter with his gentleman Santiago gets the courage to put this flock on the market and purchase a ticket for Tangier.

Upon Santiago’s arrival to Tangier he is robbed, which makes him immediately regret his decision to leave his sheep and travel to the Pyramids. So, he seeks out work from a local crystal merchant and during his time there he learns from the dealer. The message that Paulo is teaching us while Santiago is working at the crystal shop is that, you have to keep getting back up even after being pushed down, you cannot let life defeat you. Santiago wanted to cash in his money and go home to buy his sheep but then he is reminded of the King of Salem’s words, “When you want something all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.” So, he follows the omens given to him and joins a caravan traveling to the pyramids. 
While caravanning through the desert Santiago meets an Englishman, who is in search of a man who can change lead into gold. Santiago is intrigued by this notion, so he talks with the Englishman to learn more about the Alchemy that the he speaks of. When Santiago arrives at the Oasis he encounters a stunning girl name Fatima, whom he falls in love with. A few days later he meets the Alchemist, who offers to help Santiago on the rest of his journey. Throughout meeting the Englishman, Fatima and the Alchemist, Santiago begins to realize that his success has had a ripple effect and that the omens he is following are leading him in the right direction, “That’s what alchemist do. They show that when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” After some time in the desert, the Alchemist tells Santiago that he must finish his journey alone. Here we are reminded that, what is true will always endure, if we are seeking the right decision it will withstand the test of time. In Santiago’s heart he knows that is making the right decision by seeking out his personal legend and we discover that his efforts are not wasted as he finishes his voyage.   

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