October 5, 2010

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (Audiobook): Review

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Oh how I resisted Elizabeth Gilbert. I really did. Eat Pray Love seems like one of those books that make people snicker at Oprah-loving ladies-of-a-certain-age (like me),one of those touchy-feely "and then I found myself" memoirs. They're usually the kind of book that makes me want to slap someone- hard. But then curiosity overcame me, I picked up the audiobook and fell into the gravitational pull that is Eat Pray Love. Not that I drank the Gilbert Kool-aid altogether, but I'll get to that later.

So Rock Dwellers, Gilbert leaves her miserable marriage, falls into stupefying love with another man, breaks up with that guy too and ends up poor and homeless. Well, not you and me, poor and homeless. Successful New York writer poor and homeless, like she needs a new apartment and plump up her 401K. Instead of writing a book in the States, she convinces her publisher to give her an advance on a book she plans to write while travelling to Italy, India and Indonesia for a year. How does one get a job like this? Sign me up please.

For a few months she eats herself stupid in Italy, meditates it all out in Indian and tries to find balance in Bali. Along the way she thinks about herself and her place in the universe, wondering how she can find true happiness.

Eat Pray Love could have been brought to us by the makers of Calgon (Calgon: Take Me Away!). This is a woman's fantasy where Gilbert gets to eat everything she wants, goes to a place where people are quiet and then is worshiped by zexy mens. What's not to love? There was much I enjoyed about Eat Pray Love but for everything I liked there was something I did not. I spent several days trying to get a handle on my ambivalence before posting my thoughts.

Gilbert tries very hard to convince the reader of how unhappy she was in her marriage without actually explaining why. Somehow she managed to wrestle sympathy out of me despite my confusion. If you are that miserable, fill yer boots, leave. Jumping into a new relationship was an obvious mistake. The book was setting up a 'here's Liz making bad decisions' scenario with the pay off being she'd have it all figured out by the end. Okay, I'm with you there too, but did she really not know why her husband wouldn't just let her go? She's frolicking on the beach with her new lover while the hubs is trying to sell the giant house of sadness. I'd be plotting a Count of Monte Cristo style revenge not just dragging my feet on the divorce if I was that guy. This niggled at me throughout because the ex's refusal to forgive kept coming up over and over. The guy has a right to his feelings, if she has the right to leave.

The book is divided into 36 stories about each country, which made for enjoyable listening. Some stories are longer than others but they all had a point, a little lesson learned. Italy, all about pleasure, is what you expect, a funny and exciting cultural experience. I could have spent the whole book in Italy. In India, Liz gets serious about mediation and while interesting, it dragged in places. I fell asleep a couple of times. Bali was beautiful, a paradise where Liz finds the medicine man who was the inspiration for her journey. It was supposed to be about finding balance, but mostly it was about thinking about sex, contemplating whether or not to have sex and then having lots of sex.

Gilbert's writing style is lovely, conversational and often humourous, but, here's that but again, some of the scenarios were, um, woo-woo. The solutions to her problems come to her in dreams or out of the mouths of people who seem to be in the book just to offer insight into Liz's love life. She rarely suffers even inconveniences and some of her commentary is irritating: I make friends easily, my sexy lover can't keep his hands off me, all that sex I've been having is making me sick.

Despite all of that, I do appreciate the message behind it: follow your own path. Hopefully, it doesn't take an ugly divorce to discover what that is. Gilbert's own journey is beyond the reach of most of us; not many people can put their lives on hold for a year to find themselves. Maybe little journeys of self-discovery should be our goal. I found an interesting article, claiming Bali is overrun with ladies looking for themselves and writing books. Following someone else's journey defeats the purpose of a journey of self-discovery, don't you think?

About the audio: Liz Glibert narrates her own book which I appreciated. I often wonder if the person narrating is emphasizing the text the way the author meant it. I couldn't help but imagine Julia Roberts though. She's actually 8 years older than the Liz in the book. I hope I look like Julia Roberts at 42 when I'm 34 (2 years ago).

Recommended for people interested in travel, meditation or self-discovery.

22 comments :

  1. I really have no desire to read this book, although one of my good friends says that the Food portion is really good.

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  2. I think Eat, Pray, Love was the first review I posted. I was also ambivalent about Gilbert, and if I reviewed it now I think I would be tougher than I was then.

    I agree with what you said: "I do appreciate the message behind it: follow your own path." The problem is, when following your path means razing a whole bunch of other paths in the process, it might be worth it to reconsider your route. I guess, in retrospect, that was my problem with the book.

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  3. Christina- This might make me super shallow but the food parts were the best parts.

    Col- The woman must have a horseshoe up her butt because so many things could have ended in disaster. I wonder if many women have done something similar to realize they made a huge mistake.

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  4. I can't bring myself to even consider reading it. She sounds very self-absorbed. I feel for her ex. Talk about his privacy being manipulated for her profit.

    That said, I'd like to sign up for that job too.

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  5. I tried to listen to this one and only lasted about a half an hour. I think I needed to feel more compassion for her to enjoy her journey, and it just wasn't there.

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  6. I think I am in the minority because I really enjoyed this book. Maybe it is because of the place I am now in my life but I could relate to her journey. I actually enjoyed her follow up book "Committed" even more :o)

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  7. I saw the movie version of this and didn't really care for it. I'm like you - I couldn't see what was so bad about her marriage - I think she was looking for other people to make her happy. She just came across as spoiled to me. I don't think I'll read the book.

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  8. I agree with much that has been said in the comments. I read the book a couple months ago and reviewed it at my blog. I couldn't see why she felt like she had to leave her husband and go to other countries to "find" herself. I rolled my eyes many times reading her story.

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  9. I have no desire to read this book but I very much enjoyed your review.

    Here is a very funny review of the film if your interested.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/markkermode/2010/09/eat_pray_love_review.html

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  10. Love your comment about "successful New York writer poor."

    But this book lost me when I heard that Eat Pray Love merchandise was being sold on cable TV.

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  11. Rebecca- I went into it knowing it would be a self-absorbed person so being prepared for it helped.

    Shelley (BC)- Yeah, the first bit before the travel was hard to take. Especially all the crying.

    Book Worm- Considering how successful the book & movie are I don't think you are in the minority. :)

    Kathy- She tries really hard in the book to get the 'I'm not happy in my marriage" point across. Maybe not so much in the movie? I do think you make your own happiness. You can't wait for others to make you happy.

    Queen- Her other book Committed is all about marriage, maybe she explains it then.

    Chris- Ha! Thanks. He has a valid point.

    Shelley- Really? I didn't hear that!

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  12. Great Review! (And humorous! I needed several laughs today.) I have a feeling Gilbert would make me want to slap her hard so I'm avoiding the book. Someday when a copy finds its way to the clearance section of my local used book store I might pick it up.

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  13. I couldn't bring myself to read the book-those are her problems? I wish. But the BFF wanted to see the movie and it wasn't nearly as awful as I was expecting. Mind you, movie version vs the book but I still didn't have much sympathy for her plight or her quest.

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  14. I read this for my book club when it was still pretty new. (People were already talking about how reading it changed their lives, but the backlash hadn't begun.) Anyway, I felt pretty much the same way you did about it. I really liked certain aspects of Gilbert's voice--particularly her humor. But I never could quite buy her reasoning for giving up on her marriage. I got that she was unhappy, but I didn't get why. And I was never really convinced at the end that she learned as much as she claimed. Still, I was mostly entertained by it and not sorry I read it.

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  15. Lori L- My copy was free (library)!

    Carrie- It is great escapism, I think.

    Teresa- That's how I felt at the end. I didn't learn any life changing lessons but I don't regret the time I spent with it.

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  16. As a whole, I did not like this book. I thought it was a bore. I did find myself wanting to re-read the Italy section though earlier this year before I went to Florence.

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  17. I loved this book, but unlike you, I found the India section to be the most interesting. It appealed to my need for peace and rest at the time I was reading it, and I was actually able to pick up several pointers on how to go about doing just that.

    I do think we all need to take time to truly reflect on who we are, why we make certain decisions and face the truth behind the person in the mirror. Ms. Gilbert did just that throughout the novel, but I thought her stint in India was where this truly came out.

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  18. I think we pretty much came to the same conclusions about the book, although I can't remember what I wrote about it. I do recall that I liked the portion that took place in Italy, but thought it went downhill from there.

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  19. There's a lot of talk about this book/film but your review confirmed what I thought: "Not for me", although the Italy section is tempting but if I start a book, I feel I have to finish it.
    I wonder if anybody has read "Under the Tuscan Sun", which seems to be a bit in the same vein, and if it is worth reading?

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  20. I recently read this too and ended up loving it. I liked the Italy bit, hated the India bit (almost quit reading the book) and loved it all after finishing the Bali chapters. I love her message too - I wish we all had the courage to leave situations that aren't great for us.

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  21. I saw the movie it was just o.k.,don't think I will read the book.

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  22. Stephanie- Florence! That would be so nice!

    Michelle- I liked some of India but I found it dragged on to long.

    Bookfool- For some reason now I want to read "My Life in France." I think the food and travel aspect appeals to me.

    Em- I saw that movie but didn't read the book. I enjoyed it.

    Joanna- Glad you liked it!

    Tribute- I was going to see the movie but my plans fell through. I would have liked to see it with girlfriends.

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