I confess: before I sat down to write my impressions of this work, I took a peek at the Internet to see what everyone was saying about it, mainly because EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert has been such a Big Deal (It was featured on Oprah, right?). Hence, I knew many people have loved it and have found comfort and inspiration within its pages. I just wanted to see if there were any readers who disagreed with that stance.
To put it mildly, yes.
This seems to be a polarizing work, mainly because a lot of people see the author as “self-absorbed.” And, truly, to critique this book is to directly critique the author, and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, so I’m going to keep to the superficial, if you don’t mind.
To put it succinctly, this is a memoir that details the spiritual journey of a woman who has decided that she wasn’t made for her marriage. After divorcing her husband, she spirals into a deep depression and tries to find a way out. Then, at her lowest point, she hears a voice in her head, and she’s inspired to find herself through travel—both worldly and self. (Fortunately, she gets a book deal to subsidize her journey.)
I really liked the book’s structure: it’s divided into three parts to reflect each country she visits. (There’s a spiritual angle to the structure, as well, but she explains it at length at the beginning.) Consequently, each section seems like its own book, and comparisons are inevitable, I think.
From my conversations with friends who’ve also read EAT, PRAY, LOVE, Italy seems to be the favorite section, and I wholeheartedly agree, mainly because the reason I picked up this book in the first place is because I’m a sucker for travelogues and the Italian part satisfied that appetite the most. I’m not into self-help books—I think this might’ve been the first one I’ve ever read, as a matter of fact—so when I tell you that I wasn’t looking for a personal “awakening” as much as a vicarious way to explore Italy, India, and Indonesia, you might understand the reason I was more in to the sensual delights of the Italy section and not so much in to the India part, where Gilbert stays in an ashram the entire time and details her adventures in meditation.
Gilbert does offer insightful stories and thoughts, and she does make her search for enlightenment accessible with her chatty, flowing narrative and commentary. I listened to the audio version, with the author herself reading the text, and it felt very conversational.
So if you’re looking for a travelogue, you’ll get a bit of that. But if you’re in the market for a more personal experience, this is the book for you.