Saturday, September 13, 2008

Eat, Pray, Love

Title: Eat, Pray, Love
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Date Finished: September 9, 2008
Pages: 331

This work of non-fiction by Elizabeth Gilbert was the third book for my IRL book club. I was a little advantageous before starting this book because of the varying opinions I had heard from others. There are some people that really love this book and others who do not. After finishing the book, I feel like I would fall in the category of "liked" more than "disliked." There were several things that I could really connect to, and others that I felt were out of my league, but on a whole I really enjoyed the story of her journey for love, balance and enlightenment.

After ending up on her bathroom floor in tears night after night, Elizabeth Gilbert finally reaches her breaking point and calls out to God for some help. She has been married for 10 years, is approaching the age of 30, and realizes that she does not want children, or to be married to this man any longer. Eat, Pray, Love is about her year long journey across Italy, India and Indonesia in search of good food, love, and the pursuit of balance in her life. While going through her divorce, she throws herself into an on-again, off-again affair with a man named David. With the advance that she gets on a book deal, she decides to travel and in each of the three "I's" she is determined to get something from them. Her plan is to spend four months in each location, in Italy she will learn to speak Italian and eat wonderful food; in India she will stay at an Ashram where she will learn to meditate and get in touch with herself; in Indonesia she plans to seek out the "medicine man" she met there two years ago who then predicted her return to Indonesia and learn to ultimate balance in life.

I loved how she broke down the book. There are three sections to represent the three locations she will be staying in. But further than that, each section is broken down into thirty-six (36) chapters who relates to not only to her age, but is representative of the traditional beads that are worn in India that have 108 beads.
"Amid he more esoteric circles of Eastern philosophers, the number 108 is held to be the most auspicious, a perfect three-digit multiple of three, its components adding up to nine, which is three threes." (p.1)

I would have to say that my favorite section was Italy, but I really enjoyed the others are well. I have always wanted to go to Italy and her descriptions throughout the book are wonderful. Upon arriving in Italy, she connects with a set of twins who would like to learn English in exchange for teaching Italian, which is exactly what Elizabeth is looking for. She fantasises about falling in love, or in bed with Giovanni, one of the twins, but has promised herself that she will remain celibate throughout this year of searching for enlightenment. While she is in Italy, you learn the story of her divorce, and her relationship with David. I love how she is able to make friends no matter where she goes. She does not do much sight-seeing while in Italy, but when she does travel around she always asks for the best place to eat when she gets there and goes straight there and asks for their best dish. I love how adventurous she is with food. There are so many times when people travel to another place, but do not want to actually experience it because they are afraid, or picky, or it just looks weird.

The journey to India was interesting in that her goal there is to go to the Ashram and dive into meditation in the pursuit of devotion. I have never been one for deep meditation, especially with how hard it is to quiet the brain just to sleep. While Elizabeth is in India she meets Richard, from Texas. He is probably one of my favorite characters in the book. While they are at the Ashram, it is a place of quite, soul searching, meditation and there he is cracking jokes with her, calling her "Groceries" and making fun of her reactions when she is not able to meditate properly. He is great comic relief for a very intense section of the book. Although it takes her a while to finally be able to meditate and know that there will always be thoughts running through your head, you just have to ignore them. Before Richard left to go back home he had something to share with her "And, Groceries? Do me a favor? Move ahead with your life, will ya?" "I am." "What I mean is - find somebody new to love someday. Take the time you need to heal, but don't forget to eventually share your heart with someone. Don't make your life a monument to David or to your ex-husband." (p.188-189).

The part of this section that really touched me the most was Richard's description of the word soul-mate. "Your problem is you don't understand what that word means. People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it." (p.149).

Her last leg of the trip was to Indonesia. Right before she left India, Elizabeth realized that she had no idea how to find this "medicine man" of hers, or even if he would remember her. Upon arrival, she is informed that she is only allowed to stay for one month, which totally disrupts her plan, since she was intending to stay for four months. But, not letting this discourage her, she finds a hotel to stay in, and eventually finds her "medicine man." Much to her disappointment, he does not remember her at first, and even when he does, he does not remember offering her a place to stay. She forms a bond with him, and he considers her a true friend. Even though she does not end up teaching him English, like originally discussed, she learns a great deal from him. Not only about what he does as a "medicine man," but also about those who come to see him.

While in Indonesia, Elizabeth does eventually fall for a man named Felipe. Having a hard time letting go of her promise to stay celibate for the entire year, she eventually opens up her heart and lets Felipe in. Although I was happy for her finding someone to love, I could not help but wonder what her trip would have been like had she ended it completely on her own. She made some good friends while she was in Indonesia, and even had help from her friends in the stats to get one of them enough money to buy a home for her and her children.

I really did enjoy Elizabeth's journey and hope that she was able to continue her meditation and enjoyment of life once she was immersed back into her daily life in New York. It is often much easier to focus on something if that is all you do all day. In a different environment where you do not have the same distractions or commitments you do back in your own reality. I have heard that some consider her selfish for taking the time away to write this book. I would have to disagree. I think we all need to take the time to focus on ourselves once in a while, and to do that, yes, you do have to be a little selfish, but in our society, I think it is much needed. We are always willing to help other people, and often times we forget to help ourselves. It is hard to admit when we are depressed and need help, but it is something that lots of people go through, and there is nothing to be ashamed about. We need to be able to pick ourselves up, and get the help that we need. If that makes us selfish, then so be it!

1 comment:

Laura said...

Great review! I'm so glad you brought up the description of soulmates by Richard. Like you said--the way he describes soulmates is quite different from the way most people do, but so cool!