Annalisa's Reviews > Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
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Feb 12, 2008

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bookshelves: audiobook, memoir-biography
Read from June 22 to July 11, 2009

I found the irony in this book depressing. Liz is funny, articulate, and I'm sure a delightful person to know. It must make her feel incredibly vulnerable to present this raw, honest spiritual journey for us to take from it what we will. What I took from it was exasperation that she went on this journey at all. I think the book is best summed up with the proverb she included of the man who searches the world for diamonds when he is sitting on a rock at home encrusted in diamonds. That to me is Elizabeth Gilbert's life.

She starts off the book by telling us that she is in a perfectly normal, healthy life and relationship but for whatever reason (we all have those seasons in our life) decides she wants out. Maybe if she had given me reason to believe her life needed to be revamped I would have sympathized, but as it was she did not and the guilt she felt lead me to believe that she did not have one. I felt bad for the husband she dumped and just expected to have him walk out of her life without a fight, without any pain. When she can't deal with the depression and guilt of ruining her life, she jumps in bed with another man focusing all her attention on him so that she does not have to evaluate her decision until the relationship breaks, then goes on anti-depressants, becomes obsessed with a guru, and finally ends this running away from herself by deciding to take a year off to explore the world and find herself where she can tell herself things like guilt at the bad decisions you've made in your life are counterproductive to spiritual growth.

I think it's great that she had the time and money for all this exploration; many people have dreams in their life that never are realized. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of Italy, India, and Indonesia through her metaphors, and found her travels fascinating. I loved her generosity and self-deprecating wit (especially read in her own voice) and think it must have been incredibly difficult to endure such soul searching, especially when you don't always like what you find. I particularly enjoyed her descriptions on meditation.

But like I said, her lack of actual self-actualization depressed me. She pours her heart out in prayer only when she has come to the end of her rope and even then does not want any answers from God and refuses to tell Him what she needs because He doesn't want to hear from her. Because she is not a religious person, she will only accept communication from deity if it comes from her. She has a spiritual experience, but instead of realizing it and working toward building on it, she travels halfway around the world to figure out how to meditate and worship God on her terms: no communication, no guilt, no real relationship, just arriving at self-love. I think finding forgiveness, especially self-forgiveness in your life is vital, but there is so much more.

She dumps a perfectly good marriage for a codependent relationship and then every time in the book she thinks of love, she does not think of her husband, but this lover who was nothing more than a rebound. Every time she mentioned David's name, I cringed. She decides to try a year of celibacy (with some visuals of masturbation meaning she didn't give up sexual dependency only emotional attachment) and then gives that up to take a lover that she has no intention of prolonging a relationship with, which I think can only cause heartache. In a relationship she wants no emotional or any other security, no person to weather the ups and downs of life with, no real attachment, just the freedom to dump it if it ever gets too hard because her life is about her happiness.

And this to her is the route to happiness. In the end she goes back to that first night on her bathroom floor when she is bawling and praying that she doesn't want to be married anymore and saying it was her future happy self calling to her to come join her. I'm glad she found happiness, but I could not help wonder if the journey was pointless. She had all the material in her life to make her happy right where she was. Instead she had to make herself incredibly unhappy and then crawl blindly out of the unnecessary mess of a life she created. Had she not become so selfishly obsessed with finding happiness that was within her grasp, she could have arrived there a lot quicker.
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Reading Progress

06/22/2009 "So far well written but Elizabeth is driving me crazy. Completely unsympathetic." 1 comment

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Michelle Wow. I have to agree with pretty much everything you said here!

message 2: by Lisette (new)

Lisette Brodey I haven't read this book, but have heard so much about it, though not in any detail. I really appreciated hearing your opinion. Very nicely written. Thank you.

Laurel I also really enjoyed your review! I often had trouble empathizing with Elizabeth as well, especially at the beginning. She was so self consumed and full of unexplained grief; I admit at times I wanted to just shake her and tell her to get a grip. :) I also agree that she need not have traveled anywhere to have found the happiness/self exploration she was seeking (though she was quite lucky to have had that option, and I certainly don't blame her for taking it). I think what got me past all that initial self pity was her humor and great writing style. And of course, I was completely drawn in to her travel experiences --- I felt like I was right there with her. I was glad to see in the end she'd definitely grown and come to a place of peace. I listened to it on audio like you did and liked hearing it in her own voice. In the end I think I enjoyed it a bit more than you did, but I agree on all the very valid points you make! Very nice review!

message 4: by Annalisa (last edited Jul 13, 2009 09:28AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Annalisa Laurel, I enjoyed it too. Like you said her writing style was great as was her humor and I loved hearing about her travel experiences. It started off as a 2 for me, most of the book was a 4, and by the end even though I was happy she found peace, I was hesitant to give it a 4 because I felt so sad that she had done this at all so it balanced back to a 3. Even though it was good, I still had this displeasure with her, not the book. I still liked her though, if that makes any sense. I think it's definitely a good audio book, hearing her laughing at herself.

Laurel I totally get what you mean -- about feeling displeasure towards her and yet liking her at the same time. Like you said -- there's this feeling that she brought on much of her pain herself, which makes it hard to empathize with her. There were times she seemed so juvenile to me (not taking responsibility, the way she threw herself into a rebound relationship, etc.). Yet her personality is otherwise so likable (I think in part because of her self-deprecating humor) that for the most part you are able to get past all that other stuff and enjoy her journey. I actually tried to listen to this a 2nd time (not really by choice; long story :)) and couldn't do it -- just couldn't get past all that self pity in the beginning again! :) But overall it is an enjoyable read/listen.

Lucy This was such a mishmash book for me. Parts of it I really loved and parts I hated so...what do you do with that? If you're you, write a really eloquent and spot on critique! Loved the review.

Annalisa Thanks Lucy. It's true love parts and hate parts.

amy gretchen I really liked your review. For every reason you disliked this book was every reason why I never picked it up and had any desire to read it.

If it wasn't for her honest manner of writing i probably wouldn't like it as much as I am (I'm currently only 80 pages into it). I completely understand what you mean about a woman who had everything and dumped it all for the sake of self (I totally disagree with that), however, she was unhappy and for whatever reason felt she couldn't find happiness in her current situation.

So while I am sad by her choices and disagree with what she did, when you're depressed you make a lot of poor choices and do stupid things so I can't fault her for that. In fact I think it takes a lot of courage to write about it. NO? And I do love that she can laugh at herself.

There was a time in my life where I felt I was in a similar self destructive path and like her had to come to my own conclusion about life (obviously i went about it all differently and didn't end all relationships to do it, but when you're depressed you do some crazy things). My conclusion was definitely my faith. Being a member of the church and living a Gospel centered life grounds me and gave me what I needed, I haven't gotten to hers yet.

Ok that's my two cent, for now, until I finish. :)

Annalisa Amy,
I totally agree with you that it does take a lot of courage to write about your personal life like that and put it out there to be judged. I could never do that. And I loved that she laughs at herself too. I really liked her. But yeah, I was disappointed with what course she chose. And what made her happy and depressed and what she chose in life is none of my business, she puts it out there for me to get something out of her story and where she only shares part of the story, I can only come to the conclusions from what she gives, which to me wasn't enough to make divorce make her happier. I guess a part of me is just exasperated with the rise of divorce and that if things ever get difficult, it's butter to quit, which Liz's story shows us it isn't.

amy gretchen Ya I think it is easier to quit and give up...much easier than getting uncomfortable. :)

You always end up with great discussions on your reviews. I love that.

message 11: by Jena (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jena Marston I wish I could express myself in reviews like you do. This is exactly how I felt about the book.

You are great with words.

Annalisa Thanks, Jena :).

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