New York Times  Bestselling Author

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Gilbert’s not a saint or a guru, great teacher or wise woman. She’s simply an engaging writer with an open heart, and EAT PRAY LOVE has quickly become one of my favorite books. It’s certainly my favorite memoir.
Struggling with the rocky end of a marriage (been there), Gilbert decides to travel for a year, carefully planning her intinerary to focus on finding out who she is–rather than who she is/was/could be inside a relationship. Specifically, she wanted to turn inward, connecting with and nurturing her spiritual side. It’s clear to anyone reading her memoir, however, that turning inward is not all that easy for her: she is an extreme extrovert, making friends wherever she goes. Still, she gives new meaning to the concept of learning something new from every person you meet–especially when that something new is about yourself.
She divided her year (financed by a book advance) into thirds. The first four months she spent in Italy (eating, as well as studying Italian). The second four months were at an ashram in India where she spent much of her time in meditation. Anyone who has practiced–or tried to practice–meditation will surely relate to her struggle to master the skill, if not to her euphoria when she eventually succeeds. Finally, she spent four months in Indonesia, studying on the porch of a medicine man, befriending a healer, and falling in love. (To those of us who lack the means, interest or time to travel, Gilbert points out on her website that travel is not a necessity in a search for meaning. But it certainly made for an entertaining story).
What makes EAT PRAY LOVE so special to me is Elizabeth Gilbert’s humanness, which shines through on every page. Even if you can’t picture yourself traveling as confidently as she does and even if you don’t give a hoot about meditation or healers, you’ll probably be able to relate to her emotions and reactions.
Gilbert espouses no one religion in her memoir, although I believe this book spoke to me so strongly because my own sense of the divine is akin to hers. I’m curious to know how readers coming to the book from other belief systems feel about it. I like to think that, even if she had a very different take on spirituality from my own, I’d still enjoy reading about her own spiritual journey. But maybe not. . .  It’s hard to say.
The only thing that bothered me about the book was that everything fit together so neatly. That’s what makes a good memoir, though: it reads like a story, with a beginning, middle and end. If this were a novel, it would have really irked me that she fell in love at the end. I wanted her to stick to her original decision to remain celibate for the entire year, and she did give it a good try. But falling for the sensuous Brazilian ex-pat and living happily ever after felt so contrived. Yet it’s a memoir, and it’s hard to take issue with reality.
You can get a taste of Gilbert’s voice on her website where she answers questions about EAT PRAY LOVE and also shares her thoughts on writing. As for me, I’ve bought a second copy to share. I’m holding on to my own.

19 Comments

  1. brenda on December 28, 2007 at 10:24 am

    just finished a book, mystery by A. Burke (daughter of writer James Burke). It was interesting. I have been reading a book early each A.M. before hitting the beach…Am reading Robin Cook now.
    What makes us choose books? I went to my son’s library and chose l0 new books-some by familiar authors-and others unknowns. I finally got to read the l3th book (Evanovich) but am finding that story to be the same over and over. I do love the grandmother in the book…
    This book, Eat…Pray…had so many diverse reviews-some quite good-others horrible. I think that I liked it because I could RELATE…in many ways…searching for something…divorce…etc. Perhaps we choose some of the things we read for that reason. Barbara Delinsky, one of my favorites, writes about things in our lives that we can experience (I esp. loved COAST ROAD)…and all of her books are great. The same with you, Diane…we can relate to your books and your characters stay with us. I read so much that I forget many and much…not so with yours. I look forward to hearing what others say about this one. I AGREE WITH DIANE.
    Margo-are you busy this season…miss you

  2. brenda on December 28, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    I know this is a holiday for most of us, but Krysia are you okay? Did you move?
    I know I am lucky to be off a week…however, I must admit that I would love to be PAID for a vacation some time… That’s another story.
    Any New Year’s Resolutions out there?
    I am making ONE ONLY. Besides working two jobs, writing my column, my jobs as wife, mom, and NANA, tutoring students when they need it (even former students contact me), I am going to devote 30 minutes per day to writing what I want to write… (let’s see how long I keep this one).
    Any of you have any advice for me?

  3. Krysia on December 28, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    I’m still alive. And I haven’t been forgotten.
    I moved on the 5th of December, well most of my stuff anyways. I lived out of a suitcase til yesterday when I finally got the rest of my clothes. The weather hasn’t been nice to us this month so it was hard. Tuesday I drove in a snow storm, fastest I could go was 45 and took me over an hour to drive 40 miles and over 2 hours to get home. And now it’s non-stop fog.
    I finally start work on the 2nd. I can’t wait. I’ve gone a month without work and it’s been hard. The baby is growing. My tummy is starting to get bigger, harder and jeans are becoming uncomfortable.
    That’s the jist of my month thus far. Hope everyone is doing well.

  4. Diane Chamberlain on December 28, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    Brenda, I’d love a paid vacation too! LOL. It’s a good thing we love what we’re doing. I’m glad to hear you resolve to write what you want to write. If you can write one page each day, you’ll have 365 pages in a year! Of course, it’s never that simple. It takes me weeks just to structure what I want to write. Will you work on your Vietnam book?
    Krysia, glad you’re doing ok. Keep safe and take care of that little one!

  5. Julie on December 30, 2007 at 1:06 am

    My best friend bought Eat, Pray, Love a few weeks ago, and I received it as a Christmas gift, so we’re planning to do a mini book club in January. I am looking forward to reading it, but am a little cynical about anything that gets quite as much popular buzz as this has, so might find myself in the same boat about “the end,” Diane. Isn’t that horrible? LOL (I’m just jealous, right? Hehe.) Too bad James Frey has made us all suspicious, huh?
    Anyway, I took an online Barbara Samuel class in the first quarter of 2007, and near the end of the class, Barbara talked very positively about this book, so I’ve wanted to read it since.
    Also, seems like I saw her new guy with her on Oprah and he had a quite profound statement about the meaning of “soulmate.” Something about a misconception, but for the life of me, I can’t remember how it went.
    Hope everyone had happy holidays!

  6. Brenda on December 30, 2007 at 8:51 am

    Krysia-glad you are doing okay…
    Julie-who is Barbara Samuel?
    My ex prof of writing, etc. is going to email her syllabus to me, so that I can order the books she is using in her next writing class. (I finished Master’s in May, and I really do not have the time to take another class although I should work on doctorate.)
    Diane-The Vietnam fiction book is boring. The Vietnam nonfiction needs to be an article. I want to try something else…However, even though I do fine in nonfiction-fiction is a trial for me…I am trying.
    Margo-where art thou???
    P.S. My daughter and her family arrive tonight-two long days of driving–5 days here and 2 days going home. However, my husband and I fly out Tuesday A.M. It just worked that way.
    Been so restful. I finished my last book this A.M.

  7. Diane Chamberlain on December 30, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Julie, I too am cynical about books that get “popular buzz.” I often don’t like them, which makes me feel as though everyone’s pretending to like them because they feel as though there’s something wrong with them if they don’t. I felt this way about THE SECRET. Don’t even get me started on that one!
    But I truly loved this book. Not everyone will. Everything in her year did fit together too neatly, but that’s probably what made it so readable and is more a sign of her ability to structure a book than anything else. I hate pat endings, but again, if that’s what happened to her/for her, I’m glad she told us. And it did make for a lovely wrap-up.
    Many of the “reader reviews” I’ve read about EAT PRAY LOVE have criticized her for her self-absorption, but it’s a memoir for pete’s sake. I hope Gilbert will continue to chronicle her life. She’s young–about twenty years younger than me. I think of how enormously I’ve changed and grown since my thirties and I’m curious to follow her journey. The one thing that worries me is that her fame will go to her head. It has to be a huge challenge to stay centered with the demands that come with her success.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on December 30, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Brenda, I love hearing that you’ve had a good rest. It sounds like your husband is doing well.
    Margo doesn’t go on her computer between Christmas and new years. She takes off work and uses that time to paint. She’s such a smart woman to only use her computer at her job! I hope she’ll be rejoining our discussions soon.

  9. Brenda on December 30, 2007 at 10:36 am

    I am glad you told me about Margo. I use my home laptop. We are not really encouraged to use our computer at work…but hey!!! when would we anyway? We teach all morning…we get to our little office ( one at a time for those who do not have classrooms), have about 15 minutes by the time we get there to grab a bite and get to lunch duty…then teach…and prep time is totally taken with prep…I arrive by 7:30 (late for me since I don’t have a room…no need to get there earlier)…I leave at 4:00 for my second job.
    I also use my “real” lunch time to tutor kids who need it…and I often stay after to do the same…
    That’s my life…I do miss Margo…she will have lots to catch up…
    Also as to the book…when are readers going to realize that a Memoir is “I”…????
    By the way, I encouraged my readers to look for your new book…it is the quick New Year’s COlumn I emailed from here in Miami…

  10. Julie on December 30, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    Hehe, Diane … I had included The Secret in my comment originally about popular buzz and then deleted it. 🙂 It’s hard being a rebel at times, huh?
    Brenda, Barbara Samuel is a writer who started out in romance and has branched into more straight women’s fiction in about the last five years in addition. Wonderful stuff. She teaches some great online classes. I took one about feeding your creative self last year (Care and Feeding of the Girls in the Basement) and a voice class, which are both highly recommended. You can get to her blog from my blog links, and then to her website from there. My favorite of her WF books is No Place Like Home, if you want a rec, but they’re all great.
    And the “new guy” I referred to in my earlier comment was Eliz. Gilbert’s, not Barbara Samuel’s, just in case that was confusing.
    I’m about to finish Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy, and it took a little bit to get into it, but I love how she weaves short stories like she does in this one. I’ve been speaking in an Irish accent in my head all weekend. 🙂
    I’m working on a resolution (because I’m resisting it, but know I need to) where I turn off the computer at 7 p.m. or earlier at least three times a week. It’ll hurt…but I know I should at least try and see what else I can come up with to do with those hours this year!

  11. Anonymous on December 31, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Julie-those books sound familiar.
    We leave Miami Beach tomorrow A>M> for the Ft. Lauderdale airport and home and work. I’ll check on the books…Might check on a class too. WHEN???
    My daughter and her family arrived (they drove from INDY-whew…) last night..>We had a great day today…
    Nice rest.
    Happy New Year to all of you…
    Julie-I’ll do your website and look for the info. Also, one of my ex-profs in grad school is sending me a list of books for her next class.

  12. brenda on January 1, 2008 at 8:43 am

    I am, of course, anonymous. My two year old granddaughter was waiting for HER TURN to work on a Dora puzzle–amazes me-on the computer with Nana. We are in the Ft. Lauderdale airport…hate to leave this gorgeous weather. We had a good New Year’s Eve…the three girls are adorable…love the pool and beach…The two older ones like to do their WEBKINS on the computer. They read all the way here–about a 20 hour trip for them…
    HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you.

  13. Margo on January 2, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Hi everyone! I’m back from a very nice 3+ week vacation. Brenda, I’m glad Diane told you about my long break in Dec. Each year I take almost 4 weeks off from my day job and spend time painting and spending time with family and never look at our home computer once. I was able to get all my painting commissions done for people in time for X-mas and had time to spare. I spent a good amount of my free time watching late late movies and reading lots of books till the wee hours of the morning. Congratulations Diane on your new grandbaby and on all the news with CEECEE! What a great holiday for you! Brenda, so glad you’ve had a great time in Florida and hoping all is well with your husband. Just finished catching up on all the blogs…Diane, my favorite is of course the pic with Ben & Chapel. I can see shy it’s a favorite of yours and so precious. Krysia, glad your moved back…take care of your little one.

  14. Diane Chamberlain on January 2, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Welcome back, Margo! you were missed. You’re smarter than most of us, taking all that time off from the computer. I hope you got a lot of painting done.

  15. Margo on January 2, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Thx Diane! I missed you and everyone else on your blog! I finished all my art commissions in time for Christmas with time to spare for family, movies, relaxing and reading several books. Now I start all over again with my art jobs…I have 3 huge canvas’s that need to be done within the next 4 months which I’m looking forward to starting soon.
    I hope all of you had good holidays and wish everyone the best in 2008!

  16. Susan on January 7, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Diane-
    Love reading your blog..I felt moved to respond for the first time!
    Loved your comment on the Eat, Pray… book. Sounds like a good bookclub kind of book to really get to know my friends on a more intimate level! Would you recommend it for bookclubs? One of my favorite spiritual memoirs is Traveling Mercies by Ann Lamont…How would you say Eat, Pray.. compares (that is if you have read both books:-)?
    Susan

  17. Diane Chamberlain on January 7, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Eat Pray Love is perfect for a book club. Some people will love it, others will hate it, some will “get” it, others won’t even want to “get” it. Can make for impassioned disucssion.
    I’ve read Traveling Mercies and other Lamott books related to her spiritual journey (and love them). The books (Lamott’s and Gilbert’s) are alike in that both women are single and searching for their spiritual path and they are both excellent writers with good senses of humor and an ability to look at themselves critically. I would say Gilbert is somewhat less irreverent than Lamott. Also, Lamott’s focus is on her personal brand of Christianity, while Gilbert’s focus is more on Eastern spiritual traditions. In the end, there is little difference to my way of thinking. They, and we, are all on the road to understanding who we are and what we’re doing here, and how that understanding influences the way we live our lives. I hope you enjoy it.

  18. Leigh on January 10, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I read eat Pray Love also, and expected to like it a lot more than I did. I actually didn’t like that so much of her thoughts/actions revolved around the men in and out of her life, her ex, the guy she met in NY, the guy at the end that she falls in love with, it seemed so self-oriented, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But she is really really lucky to be able to travel as she did and experience other worlds for extended periods of time. I liked Frances Mayes’ books about Italy so much more.

  19. Diane Chamberlain on January 12, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Leigh, yes, you’re right. That’s one reason why I’d be curious to “see” how she changes in the years to come. I think I was pretty “guy-centric” in my youth as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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