Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Review date: April 2010
I resisted reading Eat, Pray, Love for a long time. Why? I don't really know to be honest. I'd seen an interview with Elizabeth on Oprah some time back. I thought Elizabeth's story sounded remotely interesting, but I think it was Oprah's gushing over the subject that kinda put me off. You know, she was very dramatic about the whole story, which is sometimes off-putting for me. I think that knowing what I did about her story at the time (divorced, not wanting children, travelling the world to find herself), I felt I couldn't relate.
Then I read a discussion last year about books on Mia Freedman's blog, Mamamia. Many were talking about Eat, Pray, Love. There were definitely readers criticising Elizabeth's book that day. One reader called her "self obsessed" and "selfish", from memory. (And since then, I've read reviews that describe Elizabeth's book as "prone to hyperbole" and "self-congratulatory" and "self absorbed" and "shallow" as well as finding her writing "increasingly annoying"), but there were also plenty of others who heralded Elizabeth's work as "inspiring", "real" and "honest". I was encouraged by a number of commenters that day to give it a go.
What changed my mind? Well, I think it was an impulse purchase actually! I walked in to Borders one day, and there it was on sale. So I figured, why not give it a go?
I was hooked from page 1.
After the breakdown of her marriage, as well as a relationship that followed - together with her desire to find God again and her spiritual self - Elizabeth embarks on a twelve month journey that sees her travel to three countries: Italy (to eat), India (to pray) and Indonesia (to love - although, she didn't know that's what she'd do in Indonesia until after the fact).
Each country is broken up in to a "book" with short chapters. (I'm a huge fan of short chapters in books. I hate to leave my reading mid-chapter, and get annoyed if I find page after page before I can put my book down when I need to!)
A friend, who attends a book club in which everyone read the book, told me when I was still "in Italy" that the mother's group had found Italy and Indonesia more enjoyable than India. I can kind of understand why. India very much focuses on Elizabeth's spiritual journey. Not quite as lighthearted as her journey through Italy - which pretty much had her eating her way around Rome, as well as some other destinations there!
But I actually found India quite interesting. Staying in an Ashram, Elizabeth meditates for most of her day (which she at times struggles to do), and also meets another American who acts as her support and sounding board. (He's a Texan and calls her "Groceries". He sounds a funny fellow. I'm looking forward to seeing how they portray him in the movie.) It is in India, that Elizabeth really starts to work through everything that has happened to her to date, and learn to let go. Learn to make peace with everything and everyone.
In one particular chapter in India, Elizabeth writes her views on "faith". I read that particular chapter over and over again, probably because I read it less than a week after I'd given a speech at church about my own faith journey, and it really resonated with me.
In Indonesia, she returns to find Ketut - a Medicine Man who had read her palm on a previous trip to Bali, foreseeing that she would return someday and study with him. When she tracks him down (on the first day of her arrival) it at first seems as though he has no recollection of her at all, but then he realises who Elizabeth is, and they meet every day for most of her time in Bali.
It is also in Bali that Elizabeth meets Felipe - her future love.
At times, Elizabeth's story seems all too good to be true. How can one person have so much "luck", and have such a very positive experience from a whole year's travel? Just when you think she'll be down on her luck on something, it turns around and all is well. Sometimes this makes the story slightly unbelievable.
Then again, maybe she was in such a good place by the end of India (spiritually and mentally) that all the little things that undoubtedly went wrong just seemed so irrelevant when writing the book. Hence, the reason the book may, at times, come across as Elizabeth recalling her journey through rose-coloured glasses.
Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the read. Elizabeth's writing is emotive, intelligent and filled with humour. The girl certainly can laugh at herself. And write.
I hope to start on Elizabeth's follow up book, Committed soon!
My rating out of 5: