The book starts with an unusual premise – here is a woman brought down by life – divorced, broke up with her boyfriend and completely depressed. Left with meager choices, she decides to step out of the country, travel the world (well, 3 countries) for a year with the hope that this experience will enrich her and inject some much needed vitality into her life. Does she find hope and peace through and in her journey? Well, that is what you find out when you read the book.
Eat, Pray, Love is a memoir of her travels through Italy where she eats, India where she learns to commune with God and Indonesia where she discovers love. Having read a few memoirs myself (Kabul beauty school – avoid it, Into the Wild – can read, Chasing the monsoon – can read), I did not have high expectations of this book when I started reading. But Gilbert’s chatty style of writing is very engaging and is almost like holding a conversation with a friend. Memoirs can tend to get very repetitive and boring, as it is essentially a monologue capturing the world (and culture) from the author’s perspective. Eat, Pray & Love was refreshingly different in this aspect and there was not a single instance throughout the book when I got tired of the soliloquy.
All she talks about in Italy is FOOD. Being a foodie at heart, I totally enjoyed it and her success as a writer was evident for me, when I heard myself telling aloud to a friend that I want to learn Italian and stay in Italy for a month (I was being practical wrt timeline 🙂 ). She is very unreserved in talking about her experiences, be it good or bad and her uncanny ability to make friends and talk about their experiences, easily endears one to her.
Next stop is India where she hopes to find spirituality. This is the part of the book that I found most boring and least interesting, and I am not sure if this was in spite of or due to the fact that I am an Indian – I couldn’t figure that out. I thought this whole section was very cliched including her description of the her tryst in realizing God. According to me, she writes best when she deals with people and relationship, and she is not able to convey spirituality and the associated profound insights very well.
Final destination in her journey is Indonesia, where she hopes to find balance. In a sense, the whole book is about finding balance between the worldly pleasure (as signified by Italy) and inner peace (as denoted by India), and she hopes to find this in Indonesia. Her experience living with the natives of the small Hindu-community of Bali and the village is very fascinating. The part about the old medicine man was as funny as it was thought-provoking. Makes one realize, the happiest are those who live with simple or little expectations , and live as close with Nature as possible. In true fairy-tale fashion, at the end of the year @ Bali, she finds her balance and returns back to her homeland much wiser and enriched with her globe-trotting experience.
As I read somewhere, this book is similar to listening to a self-absorbed but engaging friend, who can weave a good story. In a way this book, truly lives the “it is not the destination but the journey” cliche and I quite liked it about the book. It makes you question about the choices you make and the kind of life that you lead, and that to me is the hallmark of a good book – makes me think.
Recommendation: Please Read.
This is my entry to Laksh’s Thoughtful Thursdays where the book of the month is Eat, Pray, Love.