Friday, April 16, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love- Elizabeth Gilbert

I am sort of surprised at myself for avoiding this book for so long. I bought it a few years ago, at the height of it's popularity, but let it languish on my bookshelf. For some reason it irritated me, sitting there, Gilbert's pretty blonde face smiling, gloating at me from the back cover. "Every woman on the planet loves me right now," she said. It was probably my own irritation at my life that made me mad at her. Who was she to go have some grand adventure in three of the most beautiful places on Earth, and be able to write a book about it, and get paid to write about her travels, AND get a cool cover for said book as well!? It was just too much for me as I sat and stared at the white wall of my office, struggling to complete my first novel, and so, the book sat. It wasn't until this spring when an audio book copy of it turned up on the book trading shelf at work, that I finally gave in to the crowd and picked it up. I always liked audio books, especially those read by the author, and hadn't listened to one in a while, so I decided to give it a chance. I'm glad I did.

Eat, Pray, Love is a memoir of Gilbert's journey to find herself and her purpose in life after a traumatic divorce and major life crisis. On the surface that quick synopsis might sound like any other divourcee's memoir of love lost and life found, but Gilbert's story is different. Her marriage has ended, it seems, for no major reason; she just wasn't happy any more. Initially, her husband refuses to grant her a divorce and after a long and arduous battle with lawyers, Gilbert is finally set free... a little too free. The on-again, off-again relationship with her boyfriend is off-again, she's depressed, anxious and beginning to feel a little crazy. So, she plans a year of travel, to three very different but equally stunning places around the globe, with the hopes of finding her pleasure, passion, devotion, and herself.

To me, on the surface, this book still sounds irritating. I'm not a huge fan of the "find yourself" novels that have been popular of late. No one else's journey has ever made me realize something in myself and generally I'm just mad that they've been able to leave their lives behind and embark on the journey to begin with. I didn't feel this way with Gilbert's work, however. Her writing has such a frank and earnest tone that I couldn't help but immediately relate to her and, dare I say it, love her. She has just the right amount of self deprication and self esteem to drag me with her around the globe and never once feel a twinge of jealousy. I was there in Italy with her experiencing all of the pleasures of pasta and gelatto. In India, I meditated alongside her and deeply felt her desperation for spiritual guidance and serenity. Indonesia brought her balance and made me reflect on the delicate balance of my own life. I was completely taken in by her descriptions, her adventures, even her evervescence.

I felt empowered after reading this book, not irritated. I felt like she had given me a blueprint and permission to explore my own world and desires. I am unlikely to get divorced, quit my job and travel around the world for a year, but I feel like I could now. So, while I really didn't want to like this book, I ended up loving it. As a writer, I also appreciate how she structured it (which is explained in the preface). I liked her attention to detail; how every word had a place and while it felt carefully crafted, still flowed like a long conversation with your best friend.

I'm quite glad I got over my aversion of following the crowd and my anger at those whose lives are more spectacular than mine, to read this book. It was definitely worth the time and I think is one that I might even visit again to refresh my own commitments to food, prayer and love.

4 comments:

Claire Dawn said...

I second that!

It was an amazing read.

Jane Steen said...

I saw a video of Elizabeth Gilbert giving a TEDS speech about creativity, and was highly impressed. I still might find the book irritating, though, but having read your review I have warmed towards it moderately. I too have a bit of a problem with memoirs, although when you see my forthcoming review of "Acedia & Me" you will see why I'm changing my mind a little.

Jenny said...

I wasn't expecting to like this one either. But I ended up enjoying it because Elizabeth Gilbert may be crazy, but she seems very self-aware. Which for some reason makes all the difference.

Dana said...

I have that Ted video over on my blog. It is really cool, definitely made me like her more.