When it was first released in 2006 Elizabeth Gilbert’s iconic Eat Pray Love touched the world and changed countless lives, inspiring and empowering millions of readers to search for their own best selves.
In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want—husband, country home, successful career—but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and set out to explore three different aspects of her nature, against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.
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This is not your typical travel memoir. Eat, Pray, Love is a very candid sharing of one woman’s experiences in dealing with trauma and upheaval in her life. Elizabeth Gilbert shares with the reader not just her year of physical travels to Italy, India and Indonesia, but also her spiritual travels to find herself after her bitter divorce and subsequent struggle with depression.
Gilbert’s time in Italy is spent immersing herself in a language and cuisine she loves. And yes, I do indeed mean immersing herself in Italian cuisine. Eating in Italy is a main event and the descriptions provided to the reader of the food consumed were absolutely mouth watering.
Gilbert then takes the reader on her very personal journey of self-awareness and enlightenment during her time spent in the Indian ashram of her guru.
The last destination on her year long journey was Bali, Indonesia for an unplanned reunion with a seemingly ageless medicine man. Gilbert very respectfully explains the social intricacies of the Balinese culture, explores the ex-pat sub-culture present in the tourist destination and the Balinese people’s struggles after the Bali bombings.
While I really enjoyed listening to this candid retelling of the author’s experiences, at times Eat Pray Love ventured a little too far into self-indulgence for my personal tastes. I am extremely fortunate to not have personally experienced depression and so although I am in awe of the author’s bravery in recounting something so personal, there was a point where I found the introspection in this regard laboured.
I also found the concept of following a guru hard to identify with. I must however provide the context that I am not a religious person, and while I admire and seek to emulate certain qualities of those I most respect, I have never been one who explicitly seeks direction from others. I do not however disregard the benefits others may gain from such experiences and applaud Gilbert for sharing her personal journey as I am sure many will benefit from that.
The high point of this memoir for me was Gilbert’s time spent in Indonesia. Her interactions with the medicine man were simply charming and uplifting, consistently bringing a smile to my face. The eclectic mix of people she came into contact with during her time in Bali provided her with opportunities of self-discovery and self-empowerment that I whole-heartedly identified with.
Despite some of my misgivings about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, its bestselling status is definitely warranted. It is enthralling and compelling – one person’s very personal journey shared in the hope that others may find meaning and comfort in it.
BOOK RATING: The Story 3 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5 — Overall 3.5
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Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir, ChickLit, Romance
* I have since enjoyed immensely and wholehearted recommend her epic historical novel The Signature of All Things (2013).