I read this book as part of a bookclub, again another choice I wouldn’t have made for myself.
I cannot say that it was a great book, but while reading it, I was struck by some of the writing and depth. It reads like a parable – a message underneath the layers of the story. In a nutshell, a young man is trying to find his personal journey. Who he is to be. His meaning of life. The why’s, what’s and how’s of a life to be lived. It had a similar goal as Albom’s “5 People You Meet in Heaven”, however at least in this book the main character is alive so the reader feels a sense of positivity. This character has the ability to direct or divert his path, and possibly an entire world at his feet.
The main character, Santiago, a boy sheep herder does his job well, but it seems like a small job. He feels incomplete and unsatisfied that this is all life has to offer. Sheep need care, he provides excellent care, but where will that lead him in the end?
As a woman who left the working world 20 years ago, I can see the parallel some might find to being a stay-at-home mom. It is a job of isolation, much like a shepherd. Those in her care need to be tended, ushered, kept safe, fed, protected. Life can be routine, and much of it may feel redundant. By the time my children were 5 & 7 I couldn’t wait to get out and see the world, just like Santiago. Once the youngest entered kindergarten, I was given my own “It’s a Wonderful Life” experience.
I had prayed for a job where I made a lot of money, had responsibility, upward mobility, chances to see the world. Having been out of the workforce for so long (my husband came home one night to tell me about this new thing called email), I never imagined I would even be hired for a job. Two job interviews, two job offers and I was suddenly working at corporate headquarters for a large European defense contractor. I started as an Executive Assistant and within 10 months was offered a promotion to head up a department, a pay raise of 30K a year, and opportunity to travel to Europe. I gave my notice that same week.
Everything I had wished and hoped for was handed to me on a platter, and all I could think of was how much I missed my own little sheep, how they currently didn’t have a shepherd who could love them as much as me, and because I was so “needed” by this corporation, I was absent at the doctor appointment where my youngest was diagnosed with a lifelong heart condition.
Coelho’s book hit home because I could see the point – your journey often ends where you least expect and if you don’t appreciate the moment, you might miss the fact that you have arrived.
My favorite passage from the book:
“The future belongs to God, and it is only he who reveals it, under extraordinary circumstances. How do I guess at the future? Based on the omens of the present. The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children. Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity.”