• AKO

The Alchemist Book Review: Religion, Destiny, Fear, and Dreams

Updated: Apr 6

Fear can be debilitating and stop anyone from going for what they most crave in life. All of us have a certain destiny: Maktub. What's the one thing in life you want the most? Why have you lived in one place your whole life? Why are you so scared to change your job or apply for school in a different country?



The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is packed full of life lessons and inspirational motives to follow your dreams. In the foreword it LITERALLY shows the point of the book in a real life example. Paul Coelho wrote this book in Brazil and got only 2 sales, where his publisher decided to cut him off. He didn't give up and knew this book encompassed his heart and soul. He eventually found other publishers and this book became translated in more than 80 languages, the most translated book by any living author. That right there is absolutely crazy to me and shows what happens if you don't give up. So here's my book review on The Alchemist.


"The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and get up eight times."

Summary


In The Alchemist, a Shepherd from Spain has a recurring dream of finding treasure by the Egyptian Pyramids. He meets a man one day who ends up being a king and tells him to follow this dream. I think the Shepherd (Santiago) is the perfect protagonist because his growth can be related to all of us.


He's scared to sell his herd and leave his life behind. He makes excuses like "his sheep won't survive without him," but all these are really excuses. We all make excuses on why we don't follow our dreams or move or change jobs.


He gets to Egypt and thinks, "Oh, if they only knew how different things are just two hours by ship from where they are." THIS IS SOOO IMPORTANT. I've lived in St. Louis my whole life and you get into this loop of "there's nothing out there, things are boring, life is boring," but at the same time you're scared to leave and change settings. I went to study abroad in Vienna, Austria, and this exact quote was what I thought. It's crazy how different life is with a plane ride across the world and all the things we're missing out on. Think about all the historic castles, the cool artifacts, or wonderful people you can miss out on because you didn't decide to leave or change. In Vienna, I felt indestructible. I felt that the world was in my hands and I could do anything I put my mind on.


Santiago gets tested while following his personal legend, or his dream. He gets robbed, beaten, stuck, and he let it affect him for a little until he saw omens or signs that he has to continue on his way to his dream. The problem is, when shit gets tough we all give up. But "Every search begins with beginner's luck. And every search ends with the victor's being severely tested." The king says that the whole universe conspires to help you achieve what you want, so when things get tough that doesn't mean to give up. It means to keep going because the best things in life aren't suppose to just come easy and rest at your feet.


There's a crystal merchant in the novel who's dream is to go to Mecca. He's only done one thing his whole life and is scared to change it, which is a big reason we don't follow our dreams. We're comfortable and feel safe in knowing, but each time the crystal merchant does something different like selling tea in glasses, things turn out better than before.


Maktub


Maktub, is an Arabic word for "it is written." I love love love that this word is used throughout the novel because the king and the crystal merchant all say how everything is written by the same hand and destined to be. No matter how many times Santiago got stopped on his way to his dream, he always ended back on the same path to Egypt.


Santiago encounters Christianity and Islam and it's beautiful to see how he takes bits and pieces from all religions and brings it together for cohesive thoughts that can be applied to anyone. The Islamic part intrigues me since I practice Islam, but I found so many quotes from the novel that I could relate to my religion. We believe everything was written for us, our fate and destiny, and this novel repeats time and time again about Maktub. It talks about everything being apart of the Soul of the World and everything returning there. It literally shows that from God we were created and to God we will return. No matter your religion, there is a part of the book you can relate to yourself and your beliefs.


Fear and life


Fear sucks, being scared sucks and not knowing sucks, but that's life. The novel talks about people being afraid to lose what they have, being afraid of dying. I've dealt with anxiety for years and this year was the hardest to hit me. I got scared to do anything, change anything, and I clung to things I knew "were safe." I've done 10x better with trusting myself and God's will about my life and this novel just reassured me about it. I realized there's no reason to panic and be afraid of things that haven't happened. I think a big part of it comes with living in the past with your demons or the future with what "might happen." The novel talks about living in the present and how important that is.


We often forget to take in the moment. We're on our phones, planning this weekend or texting our friends about our past relationships or how embarrassed we are about what happened at work two weeks ago. We stare at our phones while walking around, missing the scenery, the people we didn't meet because we're stuck on these electronic machines. I appreciate how this novel doesn't have any of that because it's a good slap in the face to STOP and just breathe. Just look at the grass or the sky or the person next to you in class wanting to start a conversation but can't because you're too focused on some stupid thing on Instagram.


Meeting an Alchemist


Santiago meets an Alchemist, which is someone who uses basically magic to transform things like lead into Gold. It's beautiful to see how this Alchemist teaches Santiago how to be more in tuned with nature and reading the signs. I believe so much in signs and what I like to think to be little messages from God. People can say things are just coincidence and honestly it's your right to believe what you want, but believing in these signs helps me live. I just think too many things happen that can't be just coincidence. How do people drive so close to each other on the roads and don't always crash into each other? How is it that we breathe out carbon dioxide so the plants can make oxygen for us? How can someone in a coma that has no chance to wake up, wake up and live? How does the body of a women perfectly hold and nourish these little beings while moving all their organs around and still survive? The system of life and nature is just so beautifully engineered and created to all work in perfect harmony, that I have to think there's a bigger hand who created it all.


I love this novel so much and by far it was my favorite read in 2019. I read it in two hours and it got me so excited for the future. Yeah fear will always be present, but it's how you let it ride with you but not stop you. PLEASE, follow your dreams. Whatever your "New Years resolution," will be, try and actually do it. If you've always wanted to start dancing but are too scared, DO IT. If you've want to apply for your dream college, DO IT. If you want to start your own business, what is holding you back? Life's too short and remember, what is meant to be will be. My mother always tells me that and I swear this novel basically might as well be my mother talking about life and destiny.


Love, AKO


Thanks for reading everyone! I'll link my Insta page which has short reviews and cute quotes.

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