"Alchemy" by Mike Wood

Review by Rafa Lombardino

Title: Alchemy
Author: Mike Wood
Published in: 2010
Language: English

This book was a nice little surprise! I got in touch with author Mike Wood through the Kindle page on Facebook by chance and soon saw that he had self-published his first novel. I'm all for supporting independent writers and, upon reading his book's description, I decided to give it a try. It looked fun, it was about the 1980s, I grew up in the 1980s, so it just jumped to the top of my "What to read next" queue.

I have to say I really can't remember reading a fiction book with a story so compelling that I actually felt I had to put the book away for a few hours after a big revelation hit me hard, out of nowhere. I really wasn't expecting it and I definitely couldn't go on reading because I needed to digest that important development in the character's life before moving on with the story the next morning. Besides, I got to that crucial part of the book when I was on my way to my niece's high school gala and I couldn't get my make up all messed up! Yes, had I gone on reading just another page, I'd probably burst into tears.

"Alchemy" is compelling indeed. It's the story of a young teenage boy during one eventful summer in the East Coast. His Dad has gone missing and he has to deal with both issues of abandonment and not knowing how to comfort his Mom. At the same time, he experiences his first love and feels jealous that his two best friends―who used to despise one another―are getting to hang out a lot and have fun without him, while he's too busy trying to get the girl. 

There's also a lot of action: a manatee swimming north from Florida and getting caught in unfamiliar territory, the hunt for the treasure left behind by an 18-century pirate, trying to sneak into the drive in, and the inevitable quest for the next clue that could lead him back to his father, a "closeted alchemist" who had been fascinated with the idea of turning lead into gold.

Thinking about what I would take with me from this book, I realized that speaking English as a second language means that some expressions don't really ring true to me until I can finally associate some sort of feeling with the words. After having my daughter, I could finally realize that "I could eat you with a spoon!" does make sense. After reading Mike Wood's "Alchemy" I finally realized what a "coming of age" tale is all about.