Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
By Elizabeth Gilbert
Published 2006, Penguin Group
Paperback, 334 pages
This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers. Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali. By turns rapturous and rueful, this wise and funny author (whom Booklist calls "Anne Lamott’s hip, yoga- practicing, footloose younger sister") is poised to garner yet more adoring fans.I started this book with the warning that the author comes off as very selfish. Considering that this is a memoir, I don't really see what the big deal is. The best way for me to review this book is in three parts, since the book is divided that way. The epiphany that Gilbert has about herself at the beginning of the book I felt I could relate to in some ways - I know what it feels like to spend years gearing yourself up to do something at a certain age, only to arrive and realize that you don't want to do it - and be shocked by this realization. The specifics of her realization were quite different from mine, as I have always wanted children and I could not imagine never having any, but what bugged me was that her husband could not grasp this epiphany of hers. Luckily, the book was more about her than about her mysterious ex-husband.
As for her trip to Italy, I loved every page of it. I felt like I was living it through her words and experiences, wishing I was there with her to taste the food and learn the language. Italy has always been a dream of mine, though I intend to visit the sites, too, not just experience the food and language. I found the scene in which she is fasinated by the Italian man cursing at the soccer game to be a great example of her love for Italy and something I would probably do myself. I was only disappointed that this section was not longer and she did not go into greater detail about everything that she ate. I will certainly have to remember to try the pizza in Naples.
I found her trip to India the most difficult to get through, especially when I reached the point in which she decides to not do any traveling around India - a major disappointment for me. Richard from Texas was the highlight of this section for me, since he seemed to be the most down-to-earth of all the interesting people she meets here, and offers her the soundest advice. The focus of this section was on spirituality, but as it is heavily influenced by Eastern religions, I found myself disagreeing with many of her personal beliefs, even though I admired her dedication and determination. Her views of "kundalini shakti" are a perfect example - Christianity teaches that this is a demonic / occult practice, but Gilbert believes that it is the same thing as the Holy Spirit. This section alone is proof enough for me as to why I stay away from philosophical books.
Her final trip to Bali, Indonesia was educational in many ways, as I knew nothing about the culture and history there. Her medicine man, Ketut Liyer, was quite an interesting character, and I really felt for the young man she befriended, Yudhi, who was forced unfairly to leave the United States thanks to the Homeland Security Act. I find it interesting that she failed in completing her year of celibacy, but I'm sure those Brazilian men can be quite tempting when they want to be. Those who say that Gilbert appears very selfish in this book seem to ignore that she helped a divorced woman - an unheard-of thing in Bali - with three children, obtained a piece of land for her own home and business before Gilbert had to leave the country.
Overall, this year in the life of Elizabeth Gilbert was certainly a memorable one, and one that many, many other women would happily take her place in. I don't find her any more selfish than anyone else who is trying to find a way out of grief and depression, as well as break destructive cycles in his or her life. She was just blessed enough to be payed for the effort to document the experience.
The Cover: I'm glad I got a cover that did not match the movie - it gives me something to remark on. I love the way the words are visually represented in the spelling of each word - as a very visual person, this way of describing what the book is about really hits home.
First Line: "When you're traveling in India -- especially through holy sites and Ashrams -- you see a lot of people wearing beads around their necks."
This is certainly an interesting way to begin a memoir - a bit of educational background and a teaser of what is to come in the book - I like it.
Favorite Quote: "Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it's what you want before you commit."
Read For: Pages Read Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge