Eat, Pray, Love Book Review

Eat Pray Love BookElizabeth Gilbert intentionally divided Eat, Pray, Love into 3 sections with 36 tales of her travels in each section, just like the japa mala, 108 beads that make up an Eastern devotional rosary. These three sections represent her stories about, Italy (Eat), India (Pray), and Indonesia (Love), and how many of us would wish for such a year of travel luxury (if you can call a spiritual quest a luxury)? Obviously she is a woman who believes in structure, especially exotic structure!

Coming from “loss upon loss” (a failed marriage followed by a painful love affair), Elizabeth decides to spend her year of travel being celibate. She is tempted by Giovanni, who wants an English conversational practice partner in Italy, and is a twin – but no, Elizabeth opts for “the kind of healing and peace that can only come from solitude.” Fleeing her receding lover David, who was “catnip and kryptonite” to her, Elizabeth starts studying Italian, which she has always wanted to do, and which starts her on her journey. “Every word was a singing sparrow, a magic

trick, a truffle for me.” She seeks out a spiritual healer with “tens of thousands of students who gather in New York weekly to chant and meditate,” involving the ancient Sanskrit mantra “I honor the divinity that resides inside me.” And from there Elizabeth, who has heretofore tended to lose herself in her male partners, begins to find herself, starting with a brief journalistic assignment in Bali where she also visits a Balinese medicine man(who tells her that she will have another marriage and, later in life, a child, and that she will return to Bali to teach him English).

A complex life? Whose isn’t? But Elizabeth Gilbert’s life is interesting, so interesting that, just like her, we never know what’s waiting around the corner for this world traveller who revels in writing about her experiences. Elizabeth learns that “both pleasure and devotion require a stress-free space in which to flourish and I’d been living in a giant trash compactor of non-stop anxiety.” She has always loved travelling (since using her baby-sitting money to visit Russia), and she can make friends with anyone. We learn about Elizabeth through her adventures: what it’s like to be in an Italian language school, her struggles with depression and her search for pleasure, gaining 25 pounds in Italy eating magnificently prepared food, her search for spirituality at an ashram in India where she meets a colorful assortment of characters from all over the world including Richard from Texas, and how she falls in love with Felipe from Brazil on the highly ritualized island of Bali (as this is not the lean and spare writing of Marguerite Duras or bare-bones existentialism!). Elizabeth informs us that “the appreciation of pleasure can be an anchor of one’s humanity” and “In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted” and “Only in a human form and only with a human mind can God-realization ever occur.”

Whether battling to maintain silence or particularly disliking long Hindu rituals or her attempts to help an Indonesian healer (a woman, Wayan, formerly physically abused by her alcoholic husband) buy a house for her child and two other orphans, we constantly see Elizabeth seeking and seeking because she so much wants to understand “God dwells within you, as you.” At the end of her glorious year she writes: “I think about the woman I have become lately, about the life that I am now living and about how much I always wanted to live this life, liberated from the force of pretending to be anyone other than myself,” as now time has passed and her formerly unbearable relationship endings have become a part of the past for her. Very few writers are able to write in such great detail about their lives and how they try to understand them, and I highly recommend this book that will intrigue and entrance you with every page. Eat, Pray, Love has also been made into a movie starring Julia Roberts now playing in theaters across America.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, on sale in paperback June 20, 2010 by Penguin Books, 334 pages.

Reviewed by Christina Zawadiwsky

Christina Zawadiwsky is Ukrainian-American, born in New York City, has a degree in Fine Arts, and is a poet, artist, journalist and TV producer. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Award, two Wisconsin Arts Boards Awards, a Co-Ordinating Council of Literary Magazines Writers Award, and an Art Futures Award, among other honors. She was the originator and producer of Where The Waters Meet, a local TV series created to facilitate the voices of artists of all genres in the media, for which she won two national and twenty local awards, including a Commitment to Community Television Award. She is also a contributing editor to the annual Pushcart Prize Anthology, the recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, and has published four books of poetry. She currently reviews movies for http://www.movieroomreviews.com, music for http://www.musicroomreviews.com, and books for http://www.bookroomreviews.com.

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Comments

  1. I read this when it first came out and then just reread it in anticipation of the movie. I loved the journey Gilbert went on (both literally and figuratively), but I found her to be overly wordy. It took her a lot longer than necessary to get to the point sometimes!

  2. It must be nice to be able to afford to take a year off and travel the world. While her travels and adventures are interesting, I find this all kind of unrealistic. Good review, but I think I’ll skip this one.

  3. I want to read this book and also watch the movie!

    Aloha
    Que Sera Sera

  4. This book was on my to be read list… but now I want to read it even more! I am struggling now as to whether to see the movie first because I usually have read the book first and then the movies never quite measure up no matter how good they are!

  5. I’d like to hear the story of the husband left behind at the beginning of the story. Was he a bad person? Seems kind of selfish and self-absorbed, if you ask me…hope she found what she was looking for, because it sounds like she left a trail of destruction behind her.

  6. I just saw this movie and it was amazing! The review makes me want to read the book – a VERY personal travel adventure!

  7. Not all of us can be sophisticated New York writers, but all of us can certainly understand tribulations in love and finding one’s place in the universe!

  8. It’s hard to be both spiritual and “of the world,” and I’d like to read this book to see how Elizabeth tried to attain this state.

  9. I found this book painful to read. The author is so self-absorbed and even though it’s easy reading, I found no talent in the writing. There were lots of whining, moaning, self-finding and lost parts in the book. I am 29 years old and I have neverrrrr felt as lost as she did, EVER! I finished reading it, but literally through it in the bin when i was finished.

  10. I caught the movie this weekend and found it to be pretty mediocre, lacking depth and realism — I have a hunch I would have been better off reading the book first. I’m guessing that Gilbert’s insights and realizations were either watered down or not adequately presented in the film, so I’ll take your advice and give the book a shot. Thanks!

    • Don’t bother. I heard great things about the book. Read it and found it to be a painfully slow, self absorbed monologue. Then I thought, I might have missed something in the book and gave it another chance with the movie. Waste of another 2 hours and $12.

  11. Thank you for all of your comments. I had never read this author before, and her books and movies are certainly causing a furor – people either love her or hate her! She’ll have a new book coming out called Committed.

  12. I’ve been wanting to read this book, especially with all the hoopla surrounding the movie right now. Thanks for the review! I’d much rather read it than see the film.

  13. Having never read the author, I was interesting recently with all the hype (and seeing this review) and read the book and saw the movie around the same time. And I agree with most of you – I wasn’t impressed. I wonder if the new book being released will be just as disappointing…

  14. see the movie before you read the book – so many people complained the movie left out all the amzing points Christina points out in her review – or course they did – they had to or we’d be in the theatre for 6 hours! Both are great. I plan to read the book and again, then watch the movie again too 🙂

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