MelissaS's Reviews > Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
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Feb 08, 2008

WHY? I cringe to think why so many women want to feel that this was a true spiritual journey. It was a pre-paid journey. The woman starts off with telling us over and over about how painful her divorce was, however she dismisses how it ever came to be that way. Leaving her audience only to guess it was so horrible she had to leave and find herself.
When asked in an interview if dumping her husband and pushing off wasn’t selfish, here is what Ms. Gilbert had to say:
"What is it about the American obsession with productivity and responsibility that makes it so difficult for us to allow ourselves a little time to solve the puzzle of our own lives, before it's too late?"
This statement alone tells so much. A responsibility towards a marriage and spouse is considered an unwanted "obsession" and one's own pursuit of happiness supercedes everything else? If a man decided to dump his wife and family to flee to the Himalayas to meditate we wouldn’t be calling it a spiritual journey...we would call it irresponsibility.
India: This when she got just a little too proud of herself. I grew so tired of her boasting about how all her decisions led to a higher plan of consciousness and a new appreciation for life and a new understanding of the universe at large.
And Bali was even worse. I was hoping the little old guy didn't remember her. Didn't that whole episode just turn out a little too cutely? And then she fell off her bike! She met her doctor friend, and bought her a house. And met an old guy, and then she did things to herself! And then she slept with the old guy. And of course she's better at that than any of us because she is now enlightened. And then she made a little rhyming couplet of a life in Australia, America, Bali, and Brazil. Double cringe.
Italy: The author's angst and shallow self-discovery and pretend real people met with the express purpose of reflecting what she would like to 'learn' (lessons that most of us will have learned far earlier in life before more interesting lessons presented themselves.)
To quote a phrase from the "Italy" section of this book, "cross the street" if you dare to even glance in a bookstore window and entertain a thought of buying this book. Elizabeth Gilbert has no ideas about life. Not only does she have nothing to teach, she has nothing to say. This book is so vicarious that it reveals a profound and deeply disturbing ignorance about the complexities of real life.
The author's observations about life are simplistic and her insights so embarrassingly undeveloped and unsophisticated that she comes across as a detached observer. There are very few passages in this book that reveal any real sense of transformation in her life. She never really seems to glean anything authentic or deeply affecting from any of her experiences. And because she has gained nothing, she has nothing to offer. The reader is frustrated and unable to connect with her on any level. This memoir not only lacks readability, it lacks any real humanity.
She is right when she says that she is not a traveler; she does not have the heart or spirit of a true traveler because she somehow remains deeply unaffected. She is merely a tourist, a spectator, barely scratching the surface of the lands she traverses, the people she encounters, and the experiences of what it means to be human. She fails to see the poverty that surrounds her, or maybe she sees it? She definitely never writes about it, maybe because it is not part of the road to any enlightenment.
In spite of her year long journey she is still unable to gain true insight or wisdom from her pain and struggles. There is no profoundness in her journey, whether it is personal or physical. This book is just a simple walk through a simple mind. She is not even a good enough writer to be able to cleverly disguise her childlike observations in beautifully crafted language. I would rather read the trail journals of a young backpacker any day. At least they are 'real.'
After reading the book, I wondered how it found its way to the bestseller list. I was perplexed by its popularity. So I did some research. As it turns out "Eat, Pray, Love" is an ideal industry example of how a publishing company can "create" a best seller from the printing of a trade paperback. In hard cover, this book only generated mediocre book sales in the year in was published. However, someone at Penguin adopted it as a "darling" and created a hard core campaign to sell the trade paperback.
Well when they said “here’s $200, 000. dollars Elizabeth, now go travel and don’t forget to eat, pray, and love – when you come back I will get you the best editor and we will both feel enlightened.” So shallow, I cringe. I cringe even more for the women that buy into such shallowness.
If you really want to live with intention, live your journey here and now. YOUR here and now.

This book gets Zero stars.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2007 – Finished Reading
February 8, 2008 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-50 of 194) (194 new)

langa thanks for putting into words exactly my frustration and disappointment with this book. i was so irritated with this book i couldn't even finish it. your review says it all. thank you!!!

Janie You said it better than I did. I hated this book!

message 3: by Luther (new)

Luther Obrock I was just getting ready to write a review of this book, beginning to grasp for words that would succinctly and correctly describe the full extent of my disgust, when I saw that you more or less had already done it for me. Thanks.

message 4: by Hope (new) - rated it 1 star

Hope Corizzo thank you for clearly stating my disgust with this book. It's been a year since our book club discussed it (I was in the majority!), and i still get riled up thinking about it.

message 5: by Amy (new)

Amy Christine, I have never met Melissa, but based on her review, I like her already.

message 6: by Heather (last edited Mar 08, 2008 09:28PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Heather Gay You articulated everything I wished I could say about this mass marketed campaign of a book! I didn't know I could give something zero stars, but now I'm going to change my initial review of 1 star thanks to you!

Kristen Not quite sure how her experience was not "real", as you put it...she did actually go to those countries, learned Italian, and prayed at an Ashram in India, and helped a single mother get a house. This book is not fictional, it really did happen. So, to say that her experience wasn't "real" is pretty judgemental. Also, how would you know unless you were her?

I think you may have come to this book with the wrong intentions. Perhaps you were looking for a book to transcend all ages, and give a new meaning to life. I think people should take from it what they will, it's not a self-help book aimed at telling people to follow in Liz's footsteps. It's more of a fun read that hopefully uplifts readers who may feel similarly to the main character early on in the book. It tells about an incredible journey of an everyday woman. Not too many have the balls to take this kind of a trip.

For you to discredit what this woman did, I disagree with that. Have you been to Bali and helped a woman get a house? How can that not be an enriching experience, and how does that act of kindness make her a "detached observer" as you say?

message 8: by Alicia (new) - added it

Alicia B. "And here is where I'll stop in my book and tell you all the things that are wrong with anti-depressents before I justify why I took them for 6 months and explain my every intention to wean myself off of them for the aforementioned reasons why anti-depressents are so bad for you."

(This is how I felt she "talked at" me during the book.)

What a lousy writer.

Helen Harvey I am so happy every time I run into a person that feels this way about this book! I am so frightened to think that this is what is being promoted "out there".

I have seen her on a "3 years later" show on Oprah and I am convinced that reality has set in and the woman is probably more depressed than ever. And now she has to live up to all that! That could be a living hell in itself!

Now, does anyone know of a book that tells of a woman's journey from the depths of a bad marriage to making it work - along with acceptance of her changing body and her love of good food! That's why I ran out and bought that trash - in hardcover!!

message 10: by MelissaS (last edited Mar 20, 2008 07:03PM) (new) - added it

MelissaS Kristen, here at goodreads you are entitled to your review...I am not here to defend my reviews- they are what they are- my reviews. Hence, I did not search out who "liked" the book you are refering to so that I could disagree with them...I simply read the book and posted my review. My hope is that you will do the same, as I see no point in you trying to change or argue with this/my reader’s review. Thanks!

message 11: by Brandy (new)

Brandy I was debating on reading this book and I found this review very helpful in making my decision. I think I will pass on this book. Thank you for a very intellectual review.

message 12: by Jill (new)

Jill MelissaS,

I am in the middle of reading this book and am enjoying it quite a bit. While I often read books that are philosophically &/or spirutually challenging, I don't mind that this book isn't.

Although I might hold myself to the type of standards you so nicely outlined & seem to be asking of Gilbert, I don't feel compelled to hold her to them...those were not my expectations or requirements when I set out to read Eat, Pray, Love.

I agree with Kristin in her catagorization of your judgement. Do you have to defend/change your review here at Goodreads? No. I don't think Kristen was trying to get you to argue your point or change your mind. I feel she responded (quite nicely) by shining some light on another perspective.... a valid & relevent response to your review. (while I'm not cheering 5 stars for the book, I felt the same as she when I read your opinions)

My understanding of reviews-with the ability to comment-is that some interesting discussions/(awareness) can come about. Not only when we're in agreement, but also when we have a different take.

I think, at least glancing at the other side of the coin, is most definately a step toward enlightenment.

I thank both you, MelissaS, & Kristen for your comments.

Kathy Pearce Thank you! I thought I was the only one who thought this book was wretched. I so rarely read "grown up" books, and I had such high hopes for this. I just couldn't bring myself to care about this woman and her self-indulgent journey.

message 14: by Libby (new) - rated it 1 star

Libby T Thanks for your review. I was beginning to feel pretty lonely about wanting to vomit several times during the reading of this book. Wouldn't a more interesting and honest project have been to do something with people living in the Italian/Indonesian/Indian communities that perhaps benefits THEM, and think about a spiritual healing through that approach? The entire thing was just way too privileged and narcissistic for me to swallow.

Melissa Your review put into words many feelings I had about this book. To be fair, I normally do not read books like this, I'm a fiction horror-mystery-suspense fan, but my book club chose to read this, I got out-voted, and what's the point in a book club if you don't read books you otherwise wouldn't think of reading, sometimes I feel myself surprised at how well a book turned out, and sometimes I'm surprised at how awful a book turned out. I did not want to read this at all, but decided to go into it with an open mind. I liked it MUCH less that I thought I would. I could not relate to the author at all, she did not endear me one little bit and I felt she was selfish, self absorbed, and I think she is a terrible writer. It did not feel any enjoyment or entertainment from this at all, and my time is too precious to waste on something bad. I was beginning to think I was the only one who felt this way, it seems the majority of the ladies from my book club who have read this are liking it, which surprises me SO much. I think it's trash. The only good thing is that I got it from the library, so did not pay even a dime for it.

Stephen Gallup Memoir is writing about yourself, as defenders of this book have said: Being self-absorbed is part of the genre. Well and good, but in comparison with dozens of other memoirs I've read in recent years, this one takes the cake for narcissism.

I give the author credit for her descriptive powers (especially regarding pizza) and for her honesty in often presenting herself as a dolt. And I think the subject she tried to address is worthy. What I object to is the impression that all the superficial soul-searching amounts to a soap box from which she proceeds to say anything, regardless of its relevance or justification. The book could have been much better with some constructive feedback.

I wrote a review of it on another site and will say no more, but your reaction to the book closely matches my own.

message 17: by Susie (new) - rated it 1 star

Susie Sigel You go girl! Exactly how I felt.

message 18: by Patricia (last edited Aug 10, 2008 04:13PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Patricia Devereux Gee, this review makes me think I'm not just an aspiritual spoiler and betrayer of the feminist cause. Thanks!

The key word here is "self-indulgent" -- and it was excruciating! Gilbert is, to me, an entirely unsympathetic whiner who gives feminism a bad name.

God knows how much this piece of crap has (rightfully) fueled divorced men's hatred of women ...

message 19: by Keith (new)

Keith Bowden Bravo! I couldn't even pick the thing up - a friend of mine loved it and tried to get me to read it. From MellissaS' description, my interpretation of it from the description and flipping through apparently only scratched the surface. Aside to Particia, I think this book may also be fueling the fires of divorce for women...

Patricia Devereux Thanks! I do not know if you are divorced (I've never married), but I think that men get the short end of the stick just as often as women -- and suffer just as much emotionally. But of course, in our culture, they are not allowed to display that.
And then women like Gilbert come along and make millions off of airing the dirty laundry of THEIR divorces on "Oprah." What a sorry state of affairs ...

message 21: by Keith (new)

Keith Bowden I never married, either. (To quote Frank King, Gasoline Alley, "I'll say I know when I'm well off!") But I've also known people on both sides of the gender line ripped to shreds over divorce, even when it really does seem to be the best option.

message 22: by Jewl (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jewl well i'm far from rich, and dream of traveling, but may never have the means. i loved the book regardless. she was a real person with real problems, and yeah she might have money, but it also shows you that even people with money are real, emotional, people with problems like everyone else, and to be able to do all of that and come out of it a better, happier person, i think many of you are missing the point. i really enjoyed the book, mass marketed as it is. i am not interested in any of the other books from this author, but i really did enjoy this one. it kept me reading, and was entertaining to the end, and allowed me to travel to those countries in a sense without the expense. i liked the details, and the realness of it...just shows everyone has their own opinion. celebrate our differences i say :)

message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for the thoughtful and thorough review... I hope your warning is heeded by others. The front cover of the book was enough to make me nauseous, so I'm glad now that I followed by gut feeling and left the book on the shelf.

Siyuan I absolutely HATE the simplistic argument people always make about popular things: "If it's so bad, then why's it so popular? It must have something attractive/redeeming/special that you're just missing." Most people, myself included, have no idea how much industry forces decide what does or does not get our attention. A lot of it is simply viral, and everyone, myself included, falls prey to that. I read the book not because it really appealed to me, and my choosing to read the book did not preemptively make it a good book--I had just seen it so many times and became curious. So thanks for checking on that. I kind of wondered if Gilbert's entire career came out of things like this, since it seems she's been fairly successful financially, yet has done very little that is truly noteworthy. Then again, this is the woman who brought us Coyote Ugly.

The one thing I don't fault her on, however, is the decision to leave her husband or marriage for whatever reason. I think socially, historically, and emotionally, a lot of communities and individuals feel that people should have a sense of obligation to the people in their lives. But I think these things need to be looked at in the case by case basis. You're right, if a man had left his wife and family to write this book, people might not react the same way, but I think that was part of Gilbert's rationale. If she were to stay, and have a child with her husband, then she truly would be locked in by the responsibility to take care of the child. But in this case, it sounds like they were two financially independent, childless adults, so the consequences of one person leaving may be less devastating--or only emotionally devastating.

And yeah, you could make the argument that once you get married, you should consider yourself locked in anyway, but Gilbert doesn't strike me as someone who's always known what she's doing at every, or any, step of her life. She does annoy me for all the same reasons you cite. She is not only NOT terribly insightful, but she's insanely proud of herself for how insightful she thinks she is. Which is a terrible combination of traits.

And as for her foray into Eastern religions, I don't claim to know about any hard and fast rules for reaching enlightenment, but all of these out-of-body, miraculous experiences seemed to come far too easy to Gilbert. It actually made me wonder if what she thought was nirvana was simply due to the fact that she's a person who tends to talk to herself, act out elaborate pageantry for thoughts and emotions, and is therefore just really easily unhinged. Therefore the imagining of the cool blue light, the "transcendent" experiences that sound more like someone trying to act out scenes from the Exorcist, etc.

I also hate to say that my experiences are the only valid experiences, so I was reluctant to judge her experience of travel. I just knew that all of her traveling did not resemble any of my traveling, in that none of the places seem to sink into her at all, and her writing is sterile and conveys no sense of place or specific atmosphere, the impressionistic feeling of a place. So I was reassured by your comment that "she is not a traveler; she does not have the heart or spirit of a true traveler because she somehow remains deeply unaffected." I actually thought that was very curious, that she claims traveling is her one true love, and yet she writes about places as if she's viewing slides through a child's viewfinder toy.

Leslie We each have the right to our own point of view and maybe the hype about this book made people expect a lot more than it could ever deliver. I enjoyed this book a lot. Yes, Gilbert whined and felt sorry for herself. Are there any of us that don't? This is just the story of what one woman did one year. It was a pretty amazing year and she wrote a book about it. That's all. The fact that it was financed by a publisher so she could write this book doesn't take away from its validity. Do people think that journalists and writers pay their own expenses on assignments? The well-established ones don't, and that's was Gilbert already was before the year of this book. I think she is brave to publish her inner thoughts and anguish, her opinions and experiences, for all to read, dismiss, agree with, denounce. It's one thing to not like this book, to disagree with her choices, etc, but the way her experiences and insights are being dismissed on some of these reviews is pretty harsh and judgemental. I don't get that part. Gilbert doesn't claim to be anything but a woman on a journey.

message 26: by Ruth (new) - rated it 1 star

Ruth Oliver preach on, sister.

message 27: by Frank (new) - added it

Frank brilliant review; check out this hilarious book club episode for further evisceration of Gilbert's Thomas Kinkade-esque writing style:

message 28: by Ann (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ann I enjoyed your review very much! As I read the book I kept telling people that I hadn't gotten to the good part yet! Until I read all of these reviews I thought it was me...but it was Gilbert!

Bonnie Wow, tough reviews! I loved the book!

Marianne I'm not done yet, but this has been one of the hardest books I've EVER read. If I wasn't reading it for a book group, I'd have long since stopped reading. I cringe as well!

message 31: by Coco (new) - rated it 1 star

Coco Melissa, wonderful review--and not just because I happen to agree with you. It was well-written and contained some great information. I had always wondered how this book came to be a best-seller and your explanation of the way the industry works made it all fall into place for me.

And kudos to Leftbanker for pointing out what I would think would be obvious to everyone. This site is a place for people to review books. That means you give your opinion, good or bad, and that's all it is, an opinion. I recently got personally slammed by someone who was very upset about the fact that I didn't like a certain book. If you don't like my review, then by all means, don't read it. Getting a chance to weigh the various perspectives is one of the best things about Goodreads for me.

message 32: by Fadiah (new)

Fadiah I wanted to comment... but then i saw ur comment and you said already everything i wanted to say.. you even opened my eyes on the things that i didn't notice before...

wonderful review.

message 33: by Teresa (new)

Teresa I've had this book on my shelf for months, but am SO glad I checked out the reviews before cracking it open! It's now going to my "give away" pile... whew!

I hate not finishing a book but it sounds as if this one would have made me so angry as to toss it off one of the many bridges in my town. :)

message 34: by Tricia (last edited Jun 14, 2009 09:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tricia I am responding to a comment made by the initial poster that wanted the details of the divorce. "Do you focus on your losses or your journey to inner wisdom and love?" I can't help but wonder why on earth someone would prefer to hear the details of a messy divorce over their journey to love and happiness. There are plenty of news resources out there that will gladly give you plenty of play by play reports of a messy divorce and gossip. This book is about beauty and love. It isn't People Mag.

Tricia Nanette wrote: "Melissa,

one more thing - how lucky for her that she had the money and resources to go to these places - some people never will be able to, divorced or not.

The book isn't about money. The book is about searching within. You don't have to go any place or have $ to achieve that. In addition, the book is about finding joy and pleasure in your life. $ isn't required for that.

Candice My god, I hated this book. Elizabeth Gilbert made me want to pull my hair out in anger. Thanks for the review!

Sebila Great review! Thanks for putting it so eloquently. I totally agree.

message 38: by Jonathan (new) - added it

Jonathan Fiencke I agree with your analysis of how the book "is an ideal industry example of how a publishing company can "create" a best seller". I felt the same way about Oscar Wao...seriously a Pulitzer!?!?!?!

Carolanne I really like your review!! even though I kind of liked the book, I totally agree with everything you said!!!

message 40: by Paula (new)

Paula Constant I'm fascinated by the insight into the publishing effort put behind it - I have often been curious about that. Can you tell us more, or where you got that info? Certainly effective, if sales mean anything!

message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Brilliant review!

Annie Wow. Interesting.

You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, as we all are... but I have to agree with a previous comment that you are being judgmental of the author AND her story. It's beyond me, honestly, how you could possibly rate this book a zero--as in NO merit whatsoever.

I think it's possible you are seeking ego validation. Critics take total indulgent pleasure in writing reviews that sting and go against what the book sales suggest....

However, zero stars says to me that you have some personal beef with the author and/or her viewpoint, and that's fine, but the actual WORK--i.e. Eat, Pray, Love, could never ever earn less than 3 stars--especially based on the numbers. Sales. A total jackpot. ...Meaning that it was something that the public was longing to read, and that they just ate up.

You may not have liked it, but acknowledge that it has been uber-successful and worthy of praise, even just based on how many people it has touched. You weren't touched, fine. But acknowledge it touched many.

For example, you may not like Rihanna, but she's sure as heck BANKING, because she sells a product that many, many, people like. Can we judge her for being a savvy business woman/artist? Even if you don't like her music, you could never give her zero stars.

Can we judge Elizabeth Gilbert for her opinions, her experiences, or her choices? It would indeed be unfair. And as far as her writing prowess, well, the proof is in the pudding. (That is, sales.)

Anyway, I can find fault in the book, sure, but as a whole, it meant something to ME.

Angie "Can we judge Elizabeth Gilbert for her opinions, her experiences, or her choices?"

I think we can, in regards to the opinions, experiences, and choices she made IN the book. I'm only up to page 80 but there have already been two incidences of sheer insensitivity/offensiveness, and yes, I do think I can hold Gilbert and her editor to that.

And just because I can point out those things doesn't mean that some parts haven't resonated with me (I have my own relationship-with-a-pizza story).

message 44: by Liane (new) - added it

Liane Spicer This has been an interesting discussion. I haven't read the book yet, but I intend to and neither the negative reviews nor the positive ones will affect that.

I love it when the assessments are so wildly disparate. I even read some of the bad reviews of books I love and manage to see where the criticisms are sometimes not entirely unfounded. This doesn't alter the fact that a particular book connected with me in some way. It just makes the entire reading experience that much more interesting.

message 45: by Amy (new) - rated it 1 star

Amy Beautiful review. Agree totally!

message 46: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy Z I absolutely loathe this book

message 47: by Peg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peg Kristen wrote: "Not quite sure how her experience was not "real", as you put it...she did actually go to those countries, learned Italian, and prayed at an Ashram in India, and helped a single mother get a house. ..."

Kristen: What you said, plus: it's not the Bible. Everyone has their own life; Gilbert wrote about hers; some people liked it not just because it was in paperback (my husband bought the hardcover for me as a gift). You're right - it's fun and I like having fun (try reading anything by Karen Armstrong - I love her but her books are hard work).

And anyway, why so angry?

message 48: by Taylor (new)

Taylor Now I want to read it just to see what you're talking about.

From the library though ;)

message 49: by Peg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peg Taylor, you may have the same opinion as others but I hope you'll read it, too. I finished it today and just entered my review. Can we all survive without hearing about how Gilbert dealt with her bouts of depression, her anger, shame, etc.? Surely, but I still treasure her observations on life, love and spirituality, regardless of how absurd her experiences in discovering them might sound.

Mademoiselle Coco took the words right out my mouth (or mind, thoughts,...all the same)
I reached the India bit, and at first i was in awe (while she was struggling and crying and trying to except that she had to scrub floors every once in a while) but then her spiritual enlightenment began to sound more and more like a boast.....and i realized the rest of the book was a yawn fest, therefore, valuing my time more than "enlightenment" i put the book aside. never opened it again.
She's encouraging this spoiled way of thinking of a person to allow themselves to drop everything and everyone for no reason other than a slight dissatisfaction with their current life.
in other words...selfishness.
BUT i enjoyed the Italy part....made me want to eat!

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