I would've liked this book a lot better had it been a novel. Although I believe in spiritual journeys, I'm neither comfortable nor convinced about entering a "past life" to detect and remedy a fix for the present life.Hilal is such a bizarre character, and frankly, it's what makes her interesting. She's emotionally immature and insecure--perhaps quite normal for a 21-yr old, but she's also aggressive, insensitive, rude, and refuses to accept no for an answer. In a strange way though, I admire her ability to defy people and circumstances to pursue her goals (obsessions?).Paulo is downright honest about his thoughts, feelings, and fantasies throughout the journey, and elucidates them in a flow of words that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. The train makes an ideal setting for his life-transforming journey and serves as a perfect metaphor for life's journey.I know from my own personal journey of self-discovery that when the right people gather in the right place at the right time, the combined energies can set the stage for spiritual growth and renewal.On a side note, in Dec 2011 I rocked and rollicked across Australia on the Indian Pacific w/ author Steven Lewis. In Jan 2012 I shuddered across Russia on the Trans Siberian w/ Paulo Coelho. I'm all stirred up about the rickety possibilities February might bring -- Palace on Wheels??