Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert is a book about, well, one woman's search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia. The memoir is a brutally blunt look at Elizabeth Gilbert's "rock bottom" and her way back to happiness. The book invokes strong emotion from those that read it, so it seems, and tends be either loved or hated.
I took to the memoir without judgment, rolling with Elizabeth wherever she was in her journey. I'd been to the point in life where I was crying in the bathroom, unsure of myself and about my place and path in life. Who am I to judge her life crisis or her emotional breakdown? I found some of Elizabeth's methods of coping odd, but was okay with them because I have some odd ass methods myself.
The "eat" section of the book was incredibly slow for me because frankly, I don't care about food. I'm one of those people who if I could get through life without having to eat I'd do it. One less thing to do, after all. I'm also the type of person who can't function if I'm hungry, which really annoys me. I hate having to take care of myself overall, but having to feed myself three times a day, jeez what a pain. I also have fairly simple tastes, I'm definitely not a connoisseur of any sort of food, so in general, Gilbert's continuous descriptions of food fell flat on my tastes and I ended up skimming some of those parts, as much as I hate to admit that I skimmed, I did.
"Pray" was my favorite part of the book. As I'm a recent devotee to yoga and have been attempting to practice meditation, I appreciated Gilbert's frankness with the difficulties in practicing meditation and prayer. I felt that this part of the memoir touched me and met me where I was at spiritually, and frankly I'm more interested in developing countries such as India than any European country. I really felt touched by this section of the book and I admired Gilbert's devotion and struggles spiritually.
"Love" was entertaining and finally there was the juicy sex that everyone was looking for! Hope I didn't give anything big away, but for those frustrated in Italy that Liz wasn't getting laid by some hot Italian twin, fear not, her time will come. But this section also brings up some controversial topics when dealing with developing countries that I also had had some experience with. When someone Gilbert considers a friend begins to try to take advantage of her and get money out of her, Gilbert questions their friendship, but another foreigner to Bali explained to her that this was her friend's only chance to get anything in life and that to her this was survival for her and her daughter. I had a similar experience when in Uganda where a conference participant and someone I had considered a friend had told everyone that he had been robbed, again. Out of compassion many of the American participants gave him money to help him buy the things he'd lost only to find out months later that he had not been robbed at all but had lied to us to get money from us. I was both disappointed and hurt. But after reading Eat, Pray, Love I've thought about the situation a bit different, realizing that this Ugandan was in fact raising his two younger sisters on his own and did not have a job because the job market in Uganda is extremely sparse. It was survival for him, but on the other hand, did he deserve the money from us any more than the other Ugandan participants, all of which had their own individual struggles and family they were caring for, and yet they did not lie to us or ask for a dime from us? I always come back to my dear friend Abramz, whom I look up to and admire. He was helping children affected by the war with his Breakdance Project and paying for it all out of his own pocket, and also had not been able to obtain a job. And yet when I asked if I could purchase a copy of his CD, he refused to let me pay for it because he considered me his friend and would not take money from me. The only way I ended up "paying" for it was giving him a donation to his project in lieu of paying for the CD. So I guess I'm saying there are different ways people in developing countries can approach visiting Americans. One Ugandan took whatever he could get from them while they were there and then basically severed all ties with them since the lie, once revealed, made him untrustworthy. Abramz, on the other hand, decided to value the friendship more than the money, which was meaningful to me because although I know that I'm more well off than most of the Ugandans who were in the conference, I wanted to be seen and treated as a person, not a bag of walking money. And in return I've recently donated a large sum of money to Abramz, money I'd been saving up monthly for him, and that he'd never have dreamed of receiving. I can guarantee you that the amount of money that the Ugandan swindled out of us Americans was even half of what I've donated to Abramz, and I'm happy and feel fulfilled donating this money to Abramz because I have complete faith in his character.
Either way, I enjoyed reading this memoir. It provoked some thoughts and emotions about myself that I found useful and meaningful. Some of the ladies in my book club did not like this book because they felt that either it hit too close to home or that the author was "whiny." I guess I understand if it hit too close to home it'd be hard to read, but to call the author "whiny" and selfish annoyed me. I mean, um, hello, it's a memoir, it's supposed to be all about herself and her own thoughts. I found Gilbert extremely candid and brave and not whiny at all. Hell, I'd be twice as whiny as she was in many of the situations, so who am I to judge? Really, I had no judgment of the author's personal journey any more than I would of a friend going through a personal journey. Frankly, I'd have more judgment of myself than I did of the author because I respect people trying to figure things out for themselves and having the grace to find humor in it as well. I definitely don't prescribe to everything that she did for myself, but that's okay. Some of it was useful to me, other parts weren't, but it didn't bother me. Whatever I didn't find useful I just found entertaining and moved on.
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