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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India And Indonesia » User review

Downward Facing Dog

  • Aug 17, 2010
Tell me that the ennui and despair that author Liz Gilbert describes in her memoir "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia," hasn't been experienced at least once by any modern man/woman in the Western world attempting to juggle and succeed at rearing a family, sustaining a fulfilling marriage and pursuing personal dreams while maintaining a solid sense of self identity. It goes with the territory of growth. Mindful people question the phases and stages of their lives whether or not they work well in the context of how we or other people see and measure us. If the comfortable sense of flow that leads to a feeling of contentment in what we do and what we decide to create and accomplish does not exist, we invariably sink into the bog of the failure mindset that necessitates the various forms of high and low level anesthesia (drugs, alcohol, over-eating, shopping, self-indulgence--whatever stifles the pain) and we struggle to make sense of what and who we are as individuals and as a global population. As a paid writer, Gilbert lucks out; she gets to vent her spleen in exotic locations and turn her outpourings into a book while grounding her wellbeing with the smell of pizza, incense and durian. Procuring the backing of the Oprah moneymaking machine to promote her personal quest rockets her off into the stratosphere of turning profits that rivals the hyper-speed of Star Trek tribble-breeding. That's amore, nirvana and Bali Ha'i all mixed into one.

Other reviewers label Gilbert as the ultimate narcissist--a whining American who has it all and feels entitled to even more. Whether she is or not, is the call of the reader. Can she create an atmosphere of empathy where her audience feels her pain, relates to it and relishes her desire to find a personal synergy between earthly pleasures, heavenly devotion and the balance that ultimately leads to the stability to move fearlessly through the unchartered waters of an interesting life? Perhaps, if she can charm you into liking her as she does in her affable almost girly-girl BFF (Best Friends Forever) way.

For me, "Eat, Pray, Love" is an amusing pretension--the psychological journaling of a woman coming to terms with an unhappy marriage, a devastating divorce and an unfulfilling affair. She gets to get out of Dodge, all expenses paid. As she eats her way through Rome, she analyzes her loneliness and depression, trying to define herself in terms of her own expectations. Is she too much of a perfectionist? Is she a repressed Protestant? As an American does she need to achieve? Be the successful writer? Have her own labels defined her? Gilbert touches on some of this, but does she draw any conclusions that mean anything to the rest of us? Or are these little essays just bits of disjointed scribbles that eventually formulate a book about a year away from home?

At times, this is just what I think. As the year passes, Gilbert moves away from the pain of her misery. Distance and cultural differences separate her neatly from her leading men. She cries for them but is she not, in essence, bewailing her inability to be cute enough to get what she wants out of the circumstances in which she finds herself? Nevertheless, Gilbert's section on her time at the Indian ashram, albeit the slowest portion of this three-part book, resonates with the most truth for me. In this, the second leg of her journey, she forgets to be the ever-lovable Liz until the very last portion when she is chosen as a greeter for the Ashram's 2-week seminar sessions. The murky nature of her struggles to understand the mechanics of meditation while relaying factoids regarding the spiritual understanding of mystics like St Theresa Avila and Rumi work well with Gilbert's contemplative dealings with her own unbalanced nature. In her fervor, she forgets to be our girl Liz and just is--toppling over herself with her understanding of self and the slow but steady process of quieting her mind and coming to terms with just coming to terms.

Some reviewers have also balked at the idea of the spiritual journey ending with the discovery of yet another man in the Gilbert collection. Perhaps the only way that Gilbert knew that she had healed was by the fact that she was able to let another man into her life without fearing the pain that is sure to come with any relationship. The ability to share one's wisdom and experience--to give without losing the self--truly indicates development. In this, Gilbert accomplishes her mission--at least until the end of this memoir. Along this line, her desire to help Wayan purchase her house with the aid of funds from her friends around the world, although considerate, seems self-aggrandizing. Isn't the beauty of an unselfish act made more beautiful when the instigator doesn't promote or attempt to sell it as a thing of rarity? Find stillness in gentle actions that require no discussion--not a judgment, just a statement.

However, for the most part, her work seems disjointed--more a personal diary that needed more editing to make it work as an entire book, not only as journey of self-discovery, but as a work of literature with meaning to the beginning, middle and ending that suggests more synergistic realizations. Gilbert's musings are her private moments, many of which are so private they don't really make sense to the reader who does not fully understand the background emotions or intimate details of just why Gilbert was unhappy in her marriage and why her relationship with David fell so flat. And in this sense, "Eat, Pray, Love" falls short, yet brands our era. How could anyone possibly understand such inner turmoil when the turmoil remains undefined, nebulous, that sad little state of ennui that attacks us like the most virulent bombardment of middle-aged crazy since that joked of in City Slickers? Nevertheless, the search for inner peace, at the ashram or the yoga studio with New Age sensibilities pointing back toward ancient mysteries in long-forgotten languages about blue-faced gods is indicative of who we are in this the first half of the 21st century. Gilbert's book points out our sameness in the sense that we all have a similar inner dialogue--not to want more--but to be joined in an Akasha of contentment.

Bottom line? "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia," relates the one year author Liz Gilbert spent searching for meaning and inner peace as she attempts to answer life's big questions and rectify decisions and desires that impact not only herself but her various significant others. As a travelogue/memoir, the book works, spewing out insider's factoids about Italian, Indian and Balinese cultures and sensibilities seen from Gilbert's fairly middle American perspective. Her delayed-hippie fixation with the devotional practices of her chosen guru's ashram seems indicative of au courant intellectual pursuits that meld with her personal self-healing and thankfully stay fairly rigid and true in format to the search for God Far Eastern-style. Gilbert sticks to her chosen path without the need for other religious avenues--New Age or not--which reinforces the philosophy that all roads indeed can lead to connectivity to the Divine. Recommended as an easy-to-read journal of one woman's confusion and uncontrolled thrust for wellbeing.
Diana Faillace Von Behren

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review by . December 04, 2010
Eat Pray Love is a wonderful book that I would recommend to any woman.  The main character decides to leave her marriage and in an attempt to find herself, she travels to Italy, India and Indonesia.  In Italy she learns to eat, in India she learns to pray and do yoga with the masters, and then she finds love again while in Indonesia.            
Quick Tip by . September 19, 2013
romantic, sweet, meaningful, let's know what is love, emotion and how to be with the one to make happier life
review by . May 21, 2010
I originally bought this book 1 1/2 years ago at the recommendation of a friend or coworker (I no longer remember who). It sat on my TBR (to be read) shelf until a few months ago when I decided that it was time to get it read. Having just finished it, I wish I could go back to that day in 2008 when it arrived in the mail from Amazon and read it right away. Then again, perhaps I wasn't ready to read it until now.       If that last line sounds like New Age hooey to you, then you …
review by . June 02, 2010
I read every book I find about people moving to foreign countries and starting a new life, Provence, Cortona, New Zealand, etc. So of course, I excitedly grabbed "Eat, Pray, Love" when I first saw it!      Reading this book makes one really want to leave everything behind and embark on a trip, take a chance, meet new people see new things. The writer did just that. The author went to Italy to eat, India to pray and Indonesia to love. But she went to all to seek, learn …
review by . July 03, 2010
Eat, Pray, Love is a delightful indulgence of adventure and discovery. Tales of author Elizabeth Gilbert’s travels through Italy, India and Indonesia are told through a creative arrangement of a “string” of 108 pieces, reflecting the 108 prayer beads of an Indian “japa malas.” Three separate sections, then, represent the three visited countries, as well as a sense of “supreme balance” that Gilbert aimed at attaining through her year-long journey. I bought …
review by . July 06, 2010
If you love to travel and hear about different places all of the world, this is a great read.  The book takes place in three different countries, Italy, India, and Indonesia.  As I read this book, and learned of the author's experiences, it made me think of why I would want to experience the places myself. You get a personal perspective on the destinations and uniqueness of each place. Each country during this journey is a part of the author's emotional change and rediscovery …
review by . June 21, 2010
Alert: This review contains many spoilers!         As I was reading Eat, Pray, Love I really felt a  connection to Gilbert.  In the beginning, she traveled to Italy seeking pleasure after her failed marriage.  After she literally indulged in the Italian culture  she ventured off to India.  Her mission was to seek devotion at the ashram.  At this point, I probably felt strongest connection to her. While at the ashram she describes her vulnerability …
Quick Tip by . April 22, 2011
Narcissistic in the extreme, white middle class fantasy trips, kind of predictable insights, really her video after the book was much better than the book.
review by . July 13, 2010
    The best thing about this book is how real the author is. She has a moment where she  is on the floor crying, and for me that is very relate-able. I think we all have moments in life where we sort of lose it and just do whatever feels right at the time even if it does not make any sense. This book will help you to take a hard look at yourself and will help you discover some balance. The author takes you through what she did to find herself.      …
review by . June 26, 2010
It seems that every good book I read somehow becomes a part of me. I know that "Eat Prey Love" was deeper and more beautiful than I could have fathomed, personally it was enriching, educational and reassuring, not to mention a fun summer read that I'm happy to say I enjoyed tremendously. There are so many books out there and each has a different meaning and reaction, this is not only healing but also a nice reminder that when life is joyous and happy, it means I have succeeded and I need to stay …
About the reviewer
Diana Faillace Von Behren ()
Ranked #166
I like just about anything. My curiosity tends to be insatiable--I love the "finding out" and the "ah-ha" moments.      Usually I review a book or film with the … more
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About this book


Emotionally wrung-out from her divorce, the painful ending of a subsequent love affair, and a general, long-standing feeling of malaise, novelist and journalist Elizabeth Gilbert decides to recharge herself through a year's worth of travel, believing that her return to happiness could be found through exploring both physical gratification and spiritual peace, and then determining an appropriate balance between the two. She pursues the first part of her program (eating, drinking, and talking) in Italy, the second in India (joining an ashram), and the third in Bali (studying with a medicine man).
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Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction
Publisher: Viking Adult
Date Published: February 16, 2006
ISBN: 0670034711
Polls with this book
1984 (British first edition)



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