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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Eat, Pray, Love

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Rating: 3.5/5
Challenge: In Their Shoes Challenge

I first heard about this book when Oprah was interviewing Elizabeth Gilbert on her show, and my initial thought was “yeah it would sure be great to have the time and money to just up and travel around the world for a year,” which is what Gilbert did when she was attempting to recover from a bitter divorce and her ensuing depression. I wrote this book off thinking that it sounded awfully frivolous. However, it ended up in my tbr pile thanks to my aunt loading me up with a pile of books, and I’m glad I read it. Gilbert is a terrific and very relatable writer and what sticks out during this memoir she wrote about her journey towards spiritual recovery is that she not only funny, but very very honest about herself, her struggles, and her passions in life.

Gilbert embarked on a year traveling to Italy, India, and Indonesia in order to find inner peace to recover from her demons. In each respective country she had a different focus, and they are (you’ll never guess this one): eating, prayer, and love.

I visited Italy for one short week while studying abroad, so I really enjoyed the section where she describes wandering the streets of Rome, eating gelato and pasta every day, making new friends with the Italians she meets, learning Italian and in essence studying pleasure. “Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing here, I admit it. While I have come to Italy in order to experience pleasure, during the first few weeks I was here, I felt a bit of panic as to how one should do that…. When I realized that the only question at hand was, “How do I define pleasure?” and that I was truly in a country where people would permit me to explore that question freely, everything changed. Everything became… delicious. All I had to do was ask myself every day, for the first time in my life, “What would you enjoy doing today, Liz?”

Gilbert does a wonderful job of incorporating personal insights like that into stories of the friends she makes, and reflections on the country and the language she’s learning. She describes the pure pleasure of buying an asparagus from a street vendor, speaking the whole time in Italian, a language she hadn’t spoken a word of only a few months ago.

Finally, after 4 months in Italy, she has finally begun to recover mentally and physically (putting on 35 pounds!). She then flies off to India to spend time at an ashram (basically a place to meditate for hours and learn about Yoga).

The middle section is my least favorite in the book. I lost interest partly because she narrows her focus to her own spiritual insights to the exclusion of all the interesting anecdotes and insight about living in another culture I liked so much before. But I also found her theology, a conglomerate of different Yogic ideas, and a healthy dose of whatever-floats-your-boat must be God grating. I’m all for understanding and acceptance among different religions, but she basically creates her own religion out of a mish-mash of different ideas she liked. The one redeeming part of this section is her friendship with Richard from Texas, who gives her both the nickname Groceries and sage advice with a touch of gruffness like this: “Groceries, baby, listen to your friend Richard. You go set you lily-white ass down in that meditation cave every day for the next three months and I promise you this-you’re gonna start seeing some stuff that’s so damn beautiful it’ll make you wanna throw rocks at the Taj Mahal.”

Finally Gilbert makes it to Indonesia, where we get back to the lovely writing that drew me in to the book in the first place. She has a knack for bringing the friends she made on her trip to life in a believable manner. The medicine man who gives her direction at a critical time in her life. The healing woman who is on the verge of poverty but manages to adopt two street children because she can’t bear to see them abandoned. My favorite character, though, is the Brazilian man who she gradually allows herself to fall in love with, after finally coming to terms with the broken relationships she’s had in the past. Her time in Bali sounds so beautiful and carefree, I want to give up my career and move there myself.

So if you find yourself in the mood for traveling, but don’t have the time to take off a year, read Eat, Pray, Love instead.


alisonwonderland said...

you've done a nice job with your review!

N.Vasillis said...

I read this book once or twice a year. Your review is dead-on point. I love Italy, couldn't wait to be finish with India, except for Richard from Texas, and thought Indonesia was really interesting and daring. Your review makes me want to start reading it again.

Kim L said...

alisonwonderland-thank you!

n.vasillis-yes I think it is definitely worth picking up again. There were enough good parts to coverup the parts I didn't like.

Giulia said...

My mom is actually reading this book right now. Last time I was home a few weeks ago she read to me the snippet about when the author was in Italy and sat next to the old lady on the bench. I just about died it was so hilarious the way she phrased things!

Kim L said...

G-Yes I think Gilbert is an excellent author. She is very descriptive and I enjoyed how she described little scenes like that one.