With expectations high, I was hesitant to pick up a book that everyone and their mother suggested I had to read. But after finishing Elizabeth Gilbert's travelogue, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia, I can say without a doubt that the author has delivered something great even to the skeptic.
Eat, pray, and love symbolize three distinct journeys Gilbert takes us through after a rough divorce and her quest to find spiritual and personal happiness. Losing her home and most of her income in divorce settlements, Gilbert finds herself completely disillusioned with how quickly her once ideal life falls apart. With no one and no where to turn, Gilbert jet-sets across the world to find the solution to her problems through three outlets: food, spiritual guidance, and the almighty love factor.
Gilbert's first journey through Italy highlights the initial stages of her breakup where she indulges herself in language lessons and all the best pasta and pizza Italy has to offer. In India, Gilbert attempts to fixate her unhappiness through diligent religious devotion. Finally, in Indonesia, she risks being deported on the small chance that a Balinese medicine man who told her two years earlier to return to Indonesia will recognize her and take her under his wing. The Balinese medicine man's role particularly is important in her journey for happiness as he embodies the validation of her struggle: he doesn't recognize Gilbert at first because of her marked happiness. Just two years earlier, she was a completely different person, ridden with grief and sadness. With her happiness, Gilbert finally finds true love in this final part of her journey and, more importantly, when she least expects it.
What makes Gilbert's novel great is her free prose – the book reads like a journal, nothing is held back, as Gilbert brings you inside every step of her thoughts. While it has its funny moments, such as in stories of banana juice, Eat, Pray, Love still manages to cover the deep subject at hand — her road to recovery — by highlighting her dark moments, particularly in Italy, where she feels as though no one would love or support her but herself.
Gilbert's book manages to create a dialogue with her readers that has all the elements and structure of a well-written novel, but also the sincerity of a hurt soul who is really going through a lot of pain and struggle that anyone can identify with, and all the while making the read entertaining.
Even if you are just perfectly happy with life as you have it now, Gilbert's journey as detailed through Eat, Pray, Love still makes you think about what elements in life create lasting happiness within each of us. If I didn't know any better I could swear I was reading a self-help book that was cleverly packaged into something enjoyable to read. I owe this all to Gilbert's sense of wit, inspiration, and openness.