Eat, Pray, Love
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Summary: Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned 30, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. She had everything an educated, ambitious American woman was supposed to want: a husband, a house, a successful career. But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief, and confusion. She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love, and the eradication of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be.
To recover from all this, Gilbert took a radical step. In order to give herself the time and space to find out who she really was and what she really wanted, she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, and undertook a yearlong journey around the world, all alone. Eat, Pray, Love is the absorbing chronicle of that year. Her aim was to visit three places where she could examine one aspect of her own nature set against the backdrop of a culture that has traditionally done that one thing very well. In Rome, she studied the art of pleasure, learning to speak Italian and gaining the 23 happiest pounds of her life. India was for the art of devotion, and with the help of a native guru and a surprisingly wise cowboy from Texas, she embarked on four uninterrupted months of spiritual exploration. In Bali, she studied the art of balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. She became the pupil of an elderly medicine man and also fell in love the best way, unexpectedly.
An intensely articulate and moving memoir of self-discovery, Eat, Pray, Love is about what can happen when you claim responsibility for your own contentment and stop trying to live in imitation of society’s ideals. It is certain to touch anyone who has ever woken up to the unrelenting need for change.
Source: I borrowed a kindle copy
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I decided to read this book for the Fox and Wit Challenge as Book About Food and it worked well because it also fit the 2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompt of a book with over 1 million ratings on Goodreads, which I knew I would struggle with, having read so many of the ones I’d want to read.
I should probably start with the fact that I don’t think this book was ever really for me and I think I knew that going in, but I expected to roll my eyes at the cheesiness of “finding yourself” in a new place, but still enjoy the story overall. I did not expect to hate it.
I know a few people who really enjoyed the book and a couple of them have even been inspired by it so much that I think they’d call it life changing. If you recently went through a divorce or have lived a life solely devoted to others and generally never splurged on yourself or if you’ve been in an abusive situation where you’ve never stretched your own wings, then perhaps this book really is for you and is life changing to some degree. If you are quite selfless, it is kind of nice to see someone be utterly selfish and not be ashamed of it and perhaps it can inspire you to finally start doing things for you. And if that’s what you got out of it, then I’m happy and feel that perhaps this book has done some good.
For me, I was mostly disgusted, aggravated, and appalled by the author/narrator. She was completely self centered. She was paid to travel and write about her experiences, but it never occurred to her to view the world outside her own lens. She never really talked about other people in the places she went, unless she mentioned how they interacted with her or further served her purposes. It was just completely insane to me how shallow the whole book was. She rubbed me wrong from the very beginning with her whining, but I assumed that once she embarked on her trip, she would explore and be less frustrating.
I thought I would get a glimpse of trying new things through food, spirituality, and friendships.
I think part of my problem was her attitude about life. She was the kind of person who would let the ocean drift her out to sea on a raft as part of the will of the universe and completely ignore the paddle she’s holding because it would be far too difficult to paddle determinedly back to shore. She’d write a long monologue about how the land is getting smaller and do nothing to save herself. She travels and never plans ahead, but gets lost and anxious and overwhelmed on her travels. She spent all of this time lost in her own relationship drama in her head and ignored the sights and sounds and real experiences you can have in places if you just look beyond your own self. She chooses to compare the struggles of the areas around her to her own emotional baggage and that’s kind of where she lost me.
She looked for the easy way out of things and then, if actually challenged and successful, she patted herself on the back like she was a pro and scoffed at her “less spiritual” friends who could never dream of understanding that struggle. (She actually struggled with this part of life in the Ashram where they had to recite a mantra that she hated and also she struggled to meditate. She tried everything to get out of reciting the mantra, asked for permission to skip the morning mantra, and was told absolutely not because if it bothers you, it must be hitting a nerve and she must work it out spiritually. So she did, she worked hard to overcome her issues and was able to recite the mantra and meditate successfully and she became determined to show up everyday. It was a great lesson if it stopped there, but afterwards, her attitude about how successful she was and how her friends in New York just wouldn’t “get” her time at the Ashram really bothered me. She did almost nothing the entire time in Italy and India that she didn’t want to do, so overcoming ONE thing is not an excuse to just parade around being proud and arrogant.)
I think maybe the personalities of the author and myself are just at odds and I found myself frustrated by her attitude and her habits. Perhaps it wasn’t the same for other people and I’m trying to be as fair as possible, but I absolutely hated Eat, Pray, Love. I don’t think it was what it was advertised to be, I don’t think it is or should be inspirational, and the whole thing just seemed fake. She glossed over the surface of what being in those countries is probably like and I felt no authenticity to her quest for enrichment.
Apologies if this review seems harsh. I do understand that sometimes, when you’re in emotional turmoil, you can be stuck inside your own headspace and not realize it. I do not have issues with her feeling and thinking the ways she did. I have more of an issue with her publishing all of it under the guise of a memoir with inspiration and travel and sharing it with the world when she didn’t fully embrace her own experiences in a meaningful way.
For fun, here are my Goodreads updates:
17% First, you “grieved with NY” after 9/11 as your divorce was ramping up which I find utterly self centered. Did you grieve FOR NYC or just for yourself?!
Now, you’re in Rome and say “it’s like the whole society is conspiring to teach me Italian. They’ll even print their newspapers in Italian while I’m here; they don’t mind!” And I just can’t with this self centered narration! It’s not cute.
18% Seriously, you can’t complain about being lost and out of place while traveling in the same paragraph where you admit you never plan ahead when you travel, preferring to just see what happens.. that’s WHY you’re so GD confused and quite literally lost. I literally hate this person and want to throw this book.
23% Even now, she’s describing the people she’s met and it’s still al about what it means to her or for her to have met these people, not who the people really are aside from surface descriptions. Now she can one up her other friend since she has a new friend with a weird name, she gets to teach one English, blah blah blah still all about her her her. It’s maddening.
38% Oh, an entire chapter about feeling fat and buying pants. I feel so enlightened. *rolls eyes*
40% “I don’t want to insult anyone by drawing too much of a comparison between myself and the long suffering Sicilian people.” So… don’t. Just stop right now. “I will say that the same thing which has helped generations of Sicilians hold their dignity has helped me begin to recover mine…” oh, never mind, you ARE going to keep going.
49% “Here I am in this sacred place… and all I can think about is my ex boyfriend? What am I, in eight grade?”
How am I almost halfway through and she still doesn’t realize that all of her problems stem from the fact that she’s self centered? How has no one has brought this up? Get over yourself, let yourself go.
66% The Ashram part hasn’t been nearly that bad, especially as she tends to realize she is part of her problem and seeks to correct it and get serious, but now that she’s been successful with meditation, she begins to sound a little condescending about how her NY friends are missing out by not being spiritual. One step forward, two steps back.