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A shepherd boy in Andalusia has a special connection with his sheep. As he reads to the sheep, something he learned in seminary school, he thinks about the world, the places and things he has always wanted to see. He senses it is all connected. When he begins dreaming of finding a treasure at the Great Pyramids in Egypt, he seeks the help of a dream interpreter. This Gypsy woman, along a mysterious man who calls himself the King of Salem encourage the boy to sell his sheep and discover his Personal Legend. ‘ It is the possibility of having dreams come true that makes life interesting.’ But what will the treasure be? How will a poor boy ever find it? The struggle is what following a dream to the end is all about.

After the boy has exchanged his sheep for money and arrived in Africa, he soon finds out there are many things he doesn’t understand about the world.  In fact, the lessons he learns on his journey to locate the treasure and his Personal Legend become part of the treasure themselves. Obtaining money for the first time, the boy believes he can never be lonely so long as he has it. Any rich lonely man, would argue the point- but the boy is naïve. Almost immediately he befriends a stranger who agrees to help him travel across the desert. He hands over the money, and it is stolen. Now, he is both poor and lonely.

Soon he meets a merchant who employs him at his crystal shop where the boy prospers  helping the merchant sell his wares and improve business. Both of them consider this a good omen, something the old King of Salem had told the boy to watch for. In order to buy his sheep back, the boy needed to work at the shop for nine months, where he was able to learn new languages and skills. One day the old man he worked for asks, ‘What is it you are looking for?’ It seems as though the open-ended instructions given to the boy are now being questioned by others to challenge the boy into asking himself: Is his life’s purpose to find what he seeks along the way? Is the treasure an entity or is it the journey?

There is never a moment in the novel that the reader stops asking the questions being posed to the shepherd boy. The reader very much takes on the role of the protagonist, attempting to solve the riddle with him. In the beginning, I believe the reader, and boy are tricked by the word usage of the author and the old king: ‘treasure.’ As the novel progresses, it becomes more and more obvious that treasure has nothing to do with monetary gain, or gold which people often times associate with the word. For example, the English alchemist who spends his time reading about the Philosopher’s Stone and Master Work in order to create the ‘Soul of the World’ is doing it for the wrong reasons-greed. Perhaps this is why, despite the fact that he thinks it is his calling, the Englishman has never been summoned or guided by the great Alchemist.

By following his dreams and listening to the omens, the shepherd arrives in the oasis where he finds another source of happiness-his true love. This time he feels he has found his treasure and needs to look no further.  But there is a reason he has been given the ability to see the Pyramids. The Alchemist whom the Englishman has searched for comes to the boy. If he stops his journey now, he will miss his true calling. Too often in life people give up after they have worked so hard. Fear makes it easy to give up, even when the end is near because the end is the test of everything you’ve learned along the way.

The Alchemist and the boy reach the Pyramids together only to be arrested. The Alchemist assures the guards the boy will prove they are harmless by transforming himself into the wind. The boy is stunned and thinks the man is no true alchemist after all. But the truth is that those practicing alchemy to produce gold only created conflict. Real alchemy is not about metal, but a connection, spirituality with nature-The Soul of the World. The boy has always had a special connection with his sheep and the desert. The Alchemist only has to show him this connection is inside of him- in his heart.

Had the boy stopped his journey after learning a few things, he would have lost out on his special gift. His Personal Legend. This makes a person think about the lessons they learn and the dreams they have now versus the ones they given up on much to frivolously. We all hear never give up, yet few of us follow through in striving for our dreams. Life gets in the way, and much like the boy we settle for the smaller things that arrive while we’re working for what we really wanted. The truth is the really successful people in life don’t ever stop working for what they want.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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Paulo Coelho

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