Eat, Pray, Love
By Elizabeth Gilbert
Paperback, 334 pages
2006, Penguin Books
If you don’t already know, this is a memoir of Gilbert’s year-long journey across Italy, India and Indonesia to find happiness, heal after her divorce and discover her spirituality.
Many people have recommended I read this book, most especially my Mum. She bought it for me last year while we were on vacation together and I promised to read it and then totally didn’t. I have a habit of putting off non-fiction because I’m always worried it’ll be boring – this book didn’t seem like it would be an exception, despite the praise. Well, like an ass, I was totally wrong.
I immediately enjoyed Gilbert’s writing style and tone. I’m so accustomed to reading fiction that I forget that non-fiction can be engaging and entertaining too. Gilbert has an easy air about her writing that makes it feel like she’s recounting her life to a friend, who she also knows is a stranger. Does that make sense?
Reading about her rough divorce was…well…rough. I felt for her, even though I don’t know her and she withheld many of the more personal details. She evoked empathy – I wanted her life to take a turn for the better and hoped her journey would be a successful one. She established these feelings in me in a matter of pages.
My favorite section of the book was Gilbert’s time in Italy – lazily exploring the fabulous city of Rome in search of delicious meals, making friends and learning Italian simply because she wants to. It’s her first leg of the journey and the one I can most easily picture myself enjoying. I enjoyed the un-touristy way she spent her time, preferring meandering through local markets over visiting popular historical sites. I was jealous of all the tasty sounding food she ate (well, except the intestines, ew) and it was relaxing to read about after the upheaval of her marriage.
Her time in India was dedicated to spiritual discovery and while I found this interesting, it was less relatable. Gilbert has a very inclusive way of talking about prayer and her connection to God. It’s simply not something I’m passionate about. In Indonesia, she experiences a mix of the spirituality of India and the pleasure-seeking of Italy and I was back on board, so to speak. I especially enjoyed getting to know the people she cultivated friendships with.
I admire Gilbert’s ability to let go of the common structure of North American life and the candid detail with which she wrote about it. She mentions that she’s always been a lover of travel and someone who makes friends easily, making it obvious why this journey would go more smoothly (and successfully on an emotional level) for her than it would for someone like myself.
Certainly packing a light bag and leaving my regular life behind for a time is something I’ve thought about many times, but I know I’m not the type to make it happen. Gilbert writes a memoir that I can live vicariously through. She reminds me that I should read more travel-based memoirs.
I look forward to reading more of her work (I’ve a copy of Committed, a sort of follow-up, already) and if you’ve been putting off Eat, Pray, Love as well, I highly suggest you make some time for it if you’re at all interested in spiritual or travel memoirs.