Monday, March 8, 2010

One Year of Self Discovery

Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia" will inspire readers to laugh, cry and reflect. Gilbert has a friendly and light attitude throughout the memoir, while boasting an enthusiastically feminine tone. Gilbert creates a genuine vibe that engages the reader. Eat, Pray, Love is hard to put down because of the author’s charming honesty and wit.

"Eat, Pray, Love" was published in February of 2006 and quickly became a New York Times bestseller. The book is a memoir, in which the reader follows the real Elizabeth Gilbert on her road to self discovery and peace. Once planning on being a wife and mother, Elizabeth Gilbert’s life is abruptly altered due to her struggling marriage and ultimate separation. Gilbert then faces a bitter and rocky divorce that leaves her gasping for stability in her life. Through the rough times, Gilbert seeks solace in an on-again off-again romance that also ends unpleasantly, driving Gilbert into a deep state of depression. While barely holding on, Gilbert decides to spend a year traveling to Italy, India and Indonesia. Seeking to eat and pray and hopefully love in these three countries, Gilbert says, "I wanted to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India and, in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two.”

In the first section, “Eat,” Gilbert spends time in Rome; there she decides to enjoy eating and eats, a lot, indulging in scrumptious cannolis and significant amounts of spaghetti. However, to my dismay, aside from attempting to learn Italian, Gilbert doesn’t document any cultural experiences in Italy. I was itching to hear about art, sightseeing, famous museums, architecture or even funny run-ins with the natives, but no, just gelato and pizza. In missing out on the real Italy, I was left feeling a bit lackluster. But, the reader is meant to remember that, besides the fact that the first section is titled, “Eat,” that Gilbert is struggling with depression and feelings of abandonment. Towards the end of her time in Italy, Gilbert finds that she still can’t suppress her depression. “They come upon me all silent and menacing like Pinkerton detectives,” she writes of feeling depressed and lonely in Italy, “and they flank me — Depression on my left, Loneliness on my right. They don't need to show me their badges. I know these guys very well. We've been playing a cat-and-mouse game for years now. . . . Then Loneliness starts interrogating me. . . . He asks why I can't get my act together, and why I'm not at home living in a nice house and raising nice children like any respectable woman my age should be.” Gilbert then decides that she is ready to move on and ventures to India.

In the second section, “Pray,” Gilbert travels to India in search of a spiritual awakening and quest for meditation at an Indian Ashram. In her struggle at finding inner peace and tranquility, Gilbert struggles with Sanskrit chanting. Aside from the eye opening experiences in India, the story begins to fade into a kind of gray area that I personally find to be boring. Gilbert’s decision to incorporate every aspect of her spiritual “awakening” causes the story to spiral into monotony. Although it seems like an important aspect of Gilbert’s journey, the telling of her time in India seems less accessible to the reader simply because the subject matter is too personal. However, in the last section of the memoir entitled “Love,” Gilbert travels to find love on the island of Bali, where the end of memoir blossoms into a fresh and intriguing discovery. In Bali, Gilbert engages the reader in her paths to seeking balance, which she believes will save her life. If you’re seeking a book to read that isn’t full of complexities, but has fresh qualities, “Eat, Pray, Love,” should certainly be your choice. Just throw it into your beach bag or read it if you are experiencing some of the same trials and tribulations that Gilbert writes about. The smooth flow of the story nicely bounds all three sections into an enjoyable read. Ultimately the memoir leaves the reader pleased and wanting more.

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