So being a reasonably intelligent person, I would expect that I would have learned my lesson before this, but apparently I did not. I read The Alchemist because it was so highly recommended and didn't like it and then I read Aleph because it was supposed to be non-fiction and I expected more, but I didn't like that either. And now, I just finished The Witch of Portobello and I am still disgusted.
It seems to me that everything he writes is overblown "insightful" and "philosophical" preaching. I put those words in quotes because I did not really find anything insightful or philosophical in any of the above books. Instead, I found a lot of stilted conversations, nothing that even remotely resembles reality or real interactions (and I like fantasy, but I need characters to be true to themselves and true to some ideal and invoke a sense of reality in their interactions). These people (despite the book supposedly being a collection of interviews in their own words with about 20 different people) all HAVE THE SAME VOICE. They all talk in this remarkably bland yet prophetic tone about Love and Knowledge and Understanding and The Search for Meaning in Life.
Basically the moral is that we should enjoy the moment, have more patience, and try to be the best we can at what we want (rather than what we might be expected to be by others). Certainly good advice, which I do try to follow, but oh my god was the book painful.
As a side note, this would have been a 1 star, except I was so excited to see a bit of a plot in the switch-er-roo fake death at the end I had to tack on another star. And (ironically enough), I have been less patient with my kids and more generally in a funk the past few days while reading this supposedly "meaningful" and "calming" book. I think being faced with such ridiculous blather has had the opposite effect from what Coelho would have wanted.