Many of us have found ourselves at a point in our lives where we are lost. Maybe we’ve lost someone who is important to us, or perhaps we have lost a job that helped us form our identity. Or, like Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the beautifully written memoir Eat, Pray, Love, maybe we’ve just lost ourselves. In the beginning of the book, Elizabeth recalls being trapped in a marriage she no longer wanted to be in, desperate to be happy again. After finally proceeding with a divorce, Elizabeth is still unable to find happiness as her husband fights her every step of the way, and she becomes involved in a passionate yet toxic relationship with a man named David. Lost in her own life yet aware enough to know she needs to get away, Elizabeth pitches an idea to her publisher—let her travel to three countries to ‘find herself,’ and she’ll write a book about it. The publisher smartly agreed and the result is Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.
The book is split into three sections, each detailing her travels in one of the countries. The first section, set in Italy, chronicles Elizabeth’s search for pleasure—in the form of eating the most delicious food she can find. Liz puts on 25 pounds, makes new friends, and has a love affair (not with an Italian man, but instead with the Italian language, which she adores). In India, Liz spends three months at an ashram, learning how to meditate and searching for a way to become closer to God. Finally, in Indonesia, Liz befriends a traditional medicine man and searches for the balance that will make her life complete.
While all of this provides much opportunity for interesting stories (and interesting stories abound in this delightful book), the true pleasure of Eat, Pray, Love is not its ‘plot’; it’s the writing. Elizabeth Gilbert is quite honestly one of the most gifted writers I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Her writing is, in turn, bitingly honest, achingly sad, hilarious and wise. There are paragraphs that you want to savor by reading over and over again because they have so much power. Gilbert is not only a wonderful storyteller, but she is also an incredibly introspective person who is able to write about her own struggles without an ounce of self pity.
The book does falter in areas, most often in the second section of the book where she too often strays off the path of telling about her journey and into the dry area of the history and philosophy of yoga and meditation. These passages may be interesting to a reader who wants to know more about these practices, but it tends to slow the momentum of the book and, in some cases, even make it boring.
On the whole, though, Eat, Pray, Love is a shining example of an excellently written memoir. Whether you have gone through a similar struggle or not, whether you are interested in traveling to any of these countries or prefer staying right in your own hometown, and whether or not yoga, meditation or spirituality are a part of your life, you will appreciate Eat, Pray, Love and, most importantly, appreciate the amazing writer and person that is Elizabeth Gilbert.