Eat Pray Love: A Review
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat Pray Love, the Movie is Coming Soon
Movie lovers are all a-buzz with anticipation of the soon to premiere Eat, Pray, Love, starring Sandra Bullock. Like many avid readers, if a movie is based on a book that I’ve read, I like to compare the two versions. So I tried to hurry through Elizabeth Gilbert’s text before it hit the big screen. Though I did finish before the movie premiered, I can’t say that I could hurry. Ms. Gilbert’s attempt at combining memoir, traveloge, and spiritual autobiography forced me to slow down in order to taste the food, experience the culture and absorb the teachings as she searches for both herself and God. I found the journey quite pleasant.
Eating Her Way Through Italy
The book is divided into the three sections indicated in its title and each section is set in a different country. During the Italian leg of her journey her need is to just be. She has left a marriage that seems stable to everyone who knows her, and she feels very guilty about her decision. To placate her guilt and to begin her journey toward forgiveness, everything she does in Italy is sensory. She allows herself to focus purely on immersing herself in the culture of the country she absolutely loves, symbolically breaking the chains of her self-imposed, self-limiting expectations and the expectations of the family and friends she has left behind. She describes the conflict between the bliss of being wondrously free and the guilt of hurting the man she once loved. Though this section of the book purports to focus on her eating, we hear quite a bit about her longing for peace in her spirit and her search for God, but her unsettled spirit gives readers the sense of a bulimic binging, feasting on everything in sight, but thinking at all time about the upcoming purge.
Praying in Mumbai
And purge she does-- four months later when she moves into an ashram in India. The contrast between the two life-styles could not be greater. She goes from a life of carefree abandonment to a self-imposed cloistering. Despite having been immersed in self-indulgent pleasure in Rome, at the ashram (in the vicinity of Mumbai), Ms. Gilbert goes about her task of learning to live “in a place of eternal presence” so that she can heal her heart in order to see God. She is assigned the menial task of scrubbing the temple floors, a task symbolic of scrubbing clean her heart in order to purify it. We learn of her difficulties at meditation though she had been doing it on her own before entering the ashram, and she shares the experience where she finally experiences God (written rather anticlimactically to this reader). We are introduced to Richard from Texas who redefines “soul mate” for her (a mirror, the person that shows you everything holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so that you can change your life. p149) and epitomizes that definition in her life. Richard lovingly tells her the truth about herself while teaching her how to let go of her old habits and old thoughts. Ms Gilbert uses quite a few pages in this section explaining the things she learns about God and inner peace at the ashram, all of which are little golden nuggets of spiritual wisdom.
Finding Love in Bali
The last leg or Ms. Gilbert’s quest takes place in Bali. She goes there because a guru whom she had met two years before had made a prediction about her life (which had come true) and had invited her to come and stay at his home if she traveled there again.
Her goal in Bali is to balance the experiences of Italy and Mumbai. Though her experiences there are just as interesting and meaningful as her earlier ones, Ms. Gilbert's writing becomes thick with history and cultural traditions, forcing readers' attentions away from her spiritual quest for too long a stretch. Under the tutelage of Ketut, her guru/medicine man/healer, and because of her friendship with Wayan, a woman healer, Ms. Gilbert finishes her quest, having taken her focus off of her own broodings and giving abundantly from a self that feels both healed and whole.
Healed and Whole
The tone of Eat Pray Love is light and often humorous. This helps keep readers from giving up when the author forces us to trudge through the chapters that are heavy with history and culture. She begins her quest because she decides to end her marriage. For me, her decision not to share any of the issues that threw her into that tailspin sold readers short, though I respect her decision not to complicate her search by trying to sort through blame and fault. I enjoyed journeying with Elizabeth Gilbert. Along with being an entertaining and intelligent book, Eat, Pray, Love offers readers a pathway to our own spiritual awakening