Book Review: Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Preview… I picked up and read Elizabeth Gilbert’s elaborate personal narrative because I was delayed at the airport having already finished the novel that I had brought with me from home. I saw “Eat, Pray, Love” sitting on a display shelf and recalled being told by friends that I might like it, so I made the purchase.
Gilbert and I have a few interesting things in common. We are both writers (though she to a far greater degree of success), we are both tall pale-faced white women, we have both spent substantial amounts of time in India, and we have both felt compelled to study Italian, just because it felt good in our mouths. There’s one even more important thing that we do not have in-common: the restless search for spiritual fulfillment. Since I am somewhat laissez-faire about this topic, all of the elaborate recounting of encounters with prayer, meditation and the like became a bit tiresome to me.
That being said, the parts of Gilbert’s own coming-of-age story that focused on other topics were so entertaining that I knew I should feature this book in a quick write-up. The reader is entrusted as a close friend to the author; she lets us into her most intimate thoughts and recounts all of the emotionality surrounding her failed marriage. We travel with her to the three I’s as she seeks out pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and balance between the two in Indonesia.
She leads us to crave pasta and skilled young lovers (thanks a lot, Liz). She invites us to meditate and partake in seva within the closed walls of the Ashram. She allows us to look over her shoulder as she finally rediscovers herself and takes another crack at love. Even I, the admitted apathetic spiritualist, found myself questioning if a visit to an ashram might not be such a bad idea.
The author shares her hard-earned wisdom completely free of charge and even offers up that of some of her closest friends and most short-lived acquaintances. The part that I will remember best is when Gilbert informs her friend Iva that she thinks asking God for specific things is a sign of one’s weakness of faith. Iva, who completely disagrees, convinces her to write out a simple plea to God asking for help in finalizing her divorce quickly and without further pain. The two friends brainstorm a rather lengthy list of people who would undoubtedly be happy to add their names to the petition of the almighty and it becomes a bit of a lighthearted game.
It’s that ability to look at the same circumstance from an entirely different angle, whether applying new wisdom, a new philosophy or an entirely new culture; it’s this multifaceted gaze that eventually helps us to make the right decisions and to develop into the people we need to be. So if you had to pick a single word to describe everything that you are, what might that word be?
You may like this book if…you are a spiritual seeker, you enjoy traveling (even if it is vicariously), you like glimpsing into the lives of others, you yourself have recently undergone a major life upheaval, you enjoy savvy wit and well-fleshed out metaphors, you like stories that break apart easily and are easy to read over a long period of time if necessary, you are interested in alternative medicine, pasta, meditation or languages, you have battled with depression, you sometimes feel that you are your own best friend, you like reading about real characters.
You may not like this book if…you don’t care to read so much about how it feels to meditate or you don’t want to read a spiritual memoir, you prefer a more traditional novel-esque storyline, you want to stay with one set of characters in one setting for the course of a book rather than jumping about all over the place, you are on a diet and don’t want to be tempted.