The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, by Lloyd
Alexander; Henry Holt and Company:
New York, 2007; $18.95
Treasure hunts have long captivated the minds of children and adults alike. And treasure hunters, such as pirates or explorers, intrigue us just as much.
But in Lloyd Alexander’s book, The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, the “fearless hero” is a young, cowardly, inexperienced “chooch” (fool), living in the fictional port city of Magenta with his merchant uncle. In fact, his only reasons for trekking across the desert with a motley crew of misfits are a dream and a map found in a book of tales! This unlikely protagonist lies at the center of a unique adventure, a character we can’t help but love.
Although there is one overlying plot, the author makes each event its own little vignette. Many of Carlo’s escapades (including being attacked by bandits twice, being robbed of everything but his undergarments by his right-hand man, meeting a possibly psychic artist and hermit, buying used dreams from a street merchant, and going through countless identity crises) come across as episodes in a grander story. Each small story is another step in Carlo’s journey.
While Carlo is the most relatable character, my favorite is definitely Baksheesh, described as “the world’s worst camel-puller.” His personality is hilarious. He exalts anyone who is willing to pay him, and is fiercely loyal, though most of the time it is only to save his own skin. I think we all know people like this, who befriend people just long enough to get what they want. I once knew a girl who acted as though she genuinely wanted to get to know me. But it turned out she was just using me to get closer to one of my friends because she liked him.
But Baksheesh truly has a good nature. Salamon puts it best: “You are sometimes a thief, frequently a liar. The list goes on and on. But you have a tender heart… whether you like it or not.” Another aspect I love about Baksheesh is how he constantly tries to help others out of a sticky situation, but usually gets them much farther into it. I have a friend like this who, although his intentions are good, just makes things worse. He unwittingly gives me horrible advice, tries to include me in jokes that make me cringe, and just makes all-around bad social decisions that cause other people to think less of me.
The only problem I had with the book was the ending. While it wasn’t necessarily predictable, Alexander used a plot device involving maps, which I felt like I had seen in books before. After a story with such an original story line, the ending was somewhat disappointing, especially for such a legendary author as Lloyd Alexander.
But it says a lot about The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio that this was the only flaw in the book. This was the late Lloyd Alexander’s last work, and I am glad to say that he went out on a good note. His story, characters, and description are impeccable, and he really inspires you to persevere for something you believe in. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves adventure with a fair bit of humor mixed in.