Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Eat Pray Love
We were fortunate enough to receive a box of books no longer wanted from Alex's Mom a while ago. I have been slowly working my way through said books, and Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was my second endeavor. I have to say, I have seen this book everywhere. In every bookstore, on every shelf, as "recommended reading" by staff, the Book Reviews in magazines and all over the place. Often, that kind of turns me off. I don't love to read books that are just "popular". Especially since I once read a book by James Patterson and it was (quite possibly) the worst book I've ever read. So, I've avoided this one too. Partially because the tagline: "One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia" didn't really speak to me. Also because it's described as a spiritual journey, which I also don't really identify with.
All these things stacked against this book, and I actually loved it. It's another memoir, so you have to be comfortable with this woman's inner dialogue. Which I was not, at first. There are some things she declines to discuss, for somewhat reasonable reasons, but at some times becomes ridiculous. There are also things I could never do, things I cannot at all identify with (such as taking a year off to travel the world and write a book). However, there were a lot of things I did identify with, such as having a painful break-up, relying so totally on another person that you lose sight of who you are, searching for peace and forgiveness of yourself, traveling to India or Italy, doing yoga, etc. Basically, Elizabeth takes a year "off", moves out of NYC and moves to Italy for four months. She has the desire to learn to speak Italian, and thus moves to Rome, enrolls in classes and explores the country. Along the way, she makes many different types of friends and learns what it's like to actually live somewhere, as opposed to just visiting. In Italy, she indulges: she eats everything in sight, takes in all the sights and sounds and just slows her life down. She is recovering from a somewhat bitter divorce and wants to heal. Italy begins the journey to healing by allowing her to, literally and figuratively, eat. Without remorse. Which is a kinda cool idea, right?
She then moves on to an Ashram in India. An Ashram is another word for a community formed in hopes of creating and promoting peace among its citizens. The particular Ashram she lives in is related to "her Guru", her "spiritual guide", so to speak (for lack of a better term). While I am not necessarily a believer in either God or religion, I do appreciate the search for peace, tranquility and a "higher power", whatever that might be. She meditates daily, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together: to ultimately forgive herself for her past wrongs, for her insufficiencies, and to move on with her life, filled with a peace and a love for herself that she did not have when she began. She then moves on to Bali, an island of Indonesia, and, as she's coming out of her haze, she lands in paradise. She spends four months there, renting a house, meditating, and meeting the locals. It sounds like such a rad trip.
Not only was this book entertaining, funny, and reflective, it was also touching. There were so many things in her book I could empathize with. So many situations, so many perceptions. She definitely captured aspects of modern American life and put it into such a different perspective. She colorfully and logically explains many different ideas that are hard to explain (spirituality, anyone?) and perhaps she doesn't do this perfectly, but she does it in her own manner, in a beautifully realistic and interesting way. It makes me itch to travel, makes me itch to learn meditation. It also makes me realize that sometimes, life moves too fast, with too many things going on. Sometimes you just need to slow down and appreciate things around you, simple things, like how your elbow moves, or how the sun reflects off the budding leaves of the tree. I'm not sure I would have ever read this book if it didn't literally fall in my lap. I'm very glad it did.