This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Book Review: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

Wow. I enjoyed this book but it certainly took me a long time to read this thing.

And did I mentioned that I actually liked the book? It is a complete mystery as to why it felt, and took, so damn long for me to complete it. It felt like: I read 50 pages and would see what page number I was on and it would say "page 15"...

Anyway, a very intriguing book. To try to summarize: a 30-something year old woman leaves her marriage, then decides, to trek to Italy -- to learn Italian; India -- to meditate; then Indonesia -- to meet with a guru.

Elizabeth Gilbert is a great story-teller. And I don't mean fictional, this is a true story about her own journey and she recounts it well. The idea of someone allowing strangers to read her innermost feelings, tribulations, and pain, well, it's truly a privilege.

I found great inspiration in her writings -- she has a way of making amazing analogies or anecdotal tales that I could relate to. I found this subject matter poignant in my present state of mind. Day after day, I find it hard to face my world and wonder: what am I doing? Or rather, my favorite question: What do I want to be when I grow up?

And although Elizabeth's journey is primarily based on her divorce, then another break-up with a man post-divorce, I really could relate to the questions, the frustrations, the "what is this life about" ponderings that she had.

In the Italy section ("Eat"), she explains, actually before her journey to Italy, how it has been her "want" in life to learn Italian. She loves the language and has always wanted to learn. She decides, finally, that she will spend four months in Italy to learn the language. Her friends and family thinks she's crazy; she thinks she's crazy. After all, what the hell can one do with Italian? She wasn't planning to use it other than the desire to learn it. So as her friends question her, she says to herself 'i've been a good soldier all these years. I did what I was supposed to: paid my bills, did my job, etc. So why can't I just go and learn Italian?"

A great question for all of us? Why can't we just do the thing we want to do? Why do we question ourselves over our life's goals, no matter how 'impractical' they may be?

As for me, I haven't figured out what my "italian" is. But I know I have something in me that wants to do something that, well, means nothing to anyone but me. Well, actually, it maybe my tattoo but since I still have to endure painful sessions, I'm not ready to admit that yet.

Her journey to India was more spiritual, bordering on a religious finding. Even though I am not religious and tend to squirm at religious story-telling, her recounts did not bother me. Sure, I got bored with her on-and-on-and-on questions about spiritual guidance, but I was never envious or turned-off by her insights.

The India portion (pray) was not as exciting to me as Italy, but it was a great way to see how other cultures deal with their own spirituality. And since meditation and yoga dealt more about an individual's inner peace, it was pretty religion-neutral, so it made it easier (for me) that ALL religions were welcomed to this particular "Ashram" (sanctuary for prayer, meditation, and yoga traditions) vs. being spoon-fed a specific religion.

Her next and last journey was to Indonesia (love) - Bali, to be specific, to practice/learn/be enlightened by an elder medicine man...who four years earlier, read her palm and TOLD her that she must come back to Bali and live with him to learn. She did, and well, he sort of remembered.

But the crux of Bali, to me, is the friendships she develops with the medicine man, a medicine woman (Wayan) and then, Felippe, who becomes the LOVE based on the title.

There were so many profound 'things' she stated that moved me and inspired me. At one point, she mentions how her father was very critical about the men who would date his daughter: high standards, from a father's point of view. But at some point in her life, she failed to follow her father's standards for a 'mate' and wondered why? Shouldn't she care enough about what man is in her life as her father would? I need to remember this for my own girls.

Anyway, a great book that took me forever to read. I'm relieved to start new, but sad to see the end of this journey...

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