Top positive review
Engaging read, worth reading more than once, excellent shelf copy if you like that sort of thing
Reviewed in the United States on July 13, 2018
I picked up a copy of this book because my students were reading it for their English class and I like to throw them off by slipping literary references into Algebra class. I figured it was a short book, it wouldn't take along time, and it would give me a sense for what they were learning in their other classes (and maybe spark some cross-curricular ideas!)
Oh man, was that a mistake. It didn't do any of those things (and apparently kids these days don't actually read their summer reading, what a shame). Instead, I fell deeply in love with this book and have read it three times in the last two years. It's the kind of book that works on more than one level - you have your hero who goes on an adventure, learning from a wise mentor, hitting roadblocks, coming to know himself and the world around him before realizing that his true treasure was in himself all along, and if that's all you get out of the book, then that's fine, but there's more going on here.
The difficulty of the book is figuring out what that more is. The book constantly suggests and hints at lessons that seem at once a comment on ethics and metaphysics, history and anthropology, post-colonialist critique and folk fairy tale. Biblical allusions abound next to Islamic lessons on the nature of God while institutions and mysticism are equally likely to be evoked and revoked. There's always the sense as you read that there is something lingering under the surface, but the minute that you try to grab it (or write it in a review) it seems to disappear.
That seems to be the point of the book, that the message is clear if you read it without trying to grab it. Hold it loosely and it comes easily, try to describe it and it flits away. The book is allusive; it works on you without seeming to, and at the end you're left both satisfied as the adventure concludes and also wanting more, or perhaps wanting to do more. Perhaps that's why I like this book so much - it doesn't yield its secrets easily, or perhaps it yields it too easily, and you finish wondering where your heart and your treasure lie and what your personal legend might be. I imagine that this book might say more about its reader than its text: when you know your own heart and your own journey well enough, perhaps this will only remain a passing, although enjoyable fairy tale.