Unfulfilled with her marriage and in the clutches of a destructive affair, Gilbert leaves all behind in search of “I” through the exploration of various aspect of her nature by way of Italy, India and Indonesia.
In Italy she reconnects with the physical by indulging in pasta, pizza, deserts, and the joys of learning Italian.
In India, she seeks prayer and God within the confinement of an Ashram through meditation practice, and finally, in Bali, Indonesia, she finds peace, love, and balance in all things.
I was surprised at the range of critics to be found online, from “loved it” to “absolutely hated it.”
Gilbert is described as self-centered and self-absorbed. Hum. Well, yes… this is, after all, a “memoir of self-discovery,” and therefore all about the author. If this is not your cup of tea, than this is not the book for you. Sure Gilbert gets a bit carried away at times with self-deprecation or poor-me-look-at-what-I-have-to-go-through episodes, but she does it with humor and honesty.
As for the complaints that she does not give an accurate depiction of India in particular, that was neither the purpose of her visit nor of this book. She is not writing for a travel revue magazine. People go to India for a variety of reasons. Some go to walk the streets and experience full immersion into Indian culture; while others go to spend time in Ashrams and understand the God aspect of their being. Gilbert chose the later.
Gilbert’s writing style is entertaining, expressive, and humorous. Overall, there is a pleasant cadence to her speech, in tune to the moment, flowing, dancing, and laughing accordingly. She holds nothing sacred as she offers up all aspects of her being to the scrutiny of her readers; good and bad, merits and flaws, joys, beauty, anxieties and struggles. I found Gilbert to go on a bit at times into the wallows of self-pity, but she usually quickly redeems herself by shaking herself out of it and moving on.
Italy was funny to the point of laughing out loud at times but generally lacked in depth. Here Gilbert is still very much immersed into her old life and ways and dealing with depression. As she struggles to come to term with divorce and her penchant for men, she grows in self-awareness of the personality pitfalls that she wishes to change.
India is where she most gained insights, of herself and her divine connection. Finding God can still be taken light heartedly, however, even while practicing the discipline of meditation, and Gilbert keeps the funny moments coming. This is my favorite section.
Indonesia brings the entire journey into balance and love. Gilbert gets to re-invents who she is and becomes her own future self she was imagining all along; stable, mature, and able to love and be loved.
Eat, Pray, Love
is ultimately about transformation. It is about finding our true self and is meant as an inspiration for others to do the same. Do you have to drop everything and travel half way across the world to do so? Maybe, maybe not. Growth and transformation can be found far and near.
My main complaint is the book’s ending, or lack thereof. After following Gilbert through her one year journey, I felt abruptly dropped off without a good bye, a “it’s been fun, thanks for coming along,” or any form of finality. It just ends. I want to know what she takes with her from this yearly experience; how she feels, in retrospect, about all that she has gone through and seen; some sort of final thought. I want… closure.