I imagine this book isn’t for everyone. It’s more of a parable than a story, the language is almost semi-Biblical in tone (it’s a translation from Portuguese, but I imagine the tone is similar in the original), the events are near-impossible, and the characters are archetypes rather than actual people. The whole thing uses a mash of multiple religions, and there are philosophical nutshells thrown out on every page. It’s very different from most novels, and in truth at times borders on cheesy.
However, I enjoyed the book. For some reason, the things that normally I would roll my eyes at, all those cheeseball heavy-handed “Soul of the World”s and “his Personal Legend”s, didn’t bother me. The parable-like tone was so complete, that I never felt like this was supposed to be a real story, just a metaphor. A huge metaphor, but nonetheless a lesson (or lessons) learned. And I liked what it spoke to. I like that it says to always pursue your dream, even if you don’t always know how to get there, and to remember to learn things on the way. There’s a particular story told near the beginning of the book that struck me as a metaphor for this book:
(paraphrased) A boy goes to a wise man to learn the secret of happiness. The wise man agrees to explain in a few hours, and in the meantime asks the boy to look around the palace at all the wonders the wise man owned. The boy is also asked to carry a spoon with some oil drops in it, and to not spill the oil as he wanders. The boy wanders the palace for a couple hours, but is so nervous about the oil that he doesn’t see anything around him. When the wise man asks what he thinks about all the treasures, the boys admits he didn’t see any of them. He goes back to try again, and sees all the glories around him. However, when he describes them to the wise man, the man asks where the oil is, and the boy realizes he’s lost the oil. The man says, “Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you. The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”
That, to me, encompasses this book. By the end, Santiago the shepherd learns to see the things around him on his journey, but not to forget what he has and what his purpose is in life.