Sunday, July 3, 2011

Eat Pray Love

From the beginning of this blog, I fully intended to write about all the books I read.  I really did.  And then, somehow…that just hasn’t happened yet.
            I’m not really sure why, since I’ve been reading quite a bit lately.  In fact, reading takes up about half of all my waking hours this summer.  So I’ve decided to start getting some of my book thoughts out there.
            I want to start with Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I actually read some weeks ago, so bear with me if I have some trouble remembering names, places, etc.
            As I imagine most of you have noticed, Eat Pray Love has been a huge hit in our country since the day it was published.  And why not?  In the spirit of all the latest American trends, the book is packed with fanciful world travels that are taken up in the name of soul-searching; deep spiritual insights that are attached to no particular denomination, but generally revolve around meditation and Yoga; miraculous financial donations that help a single mother in another part of the world to get a house; the wonderful feminist vow of abstinence in order to become a strong woman independent of any man; the early (but not too early) breaking of this vow and passionate sex.  And, of course, the whole thing is a true story.  In the view of modern America, what’s not to love?
           I admit it. I did love this book.  But not for its trendiness.  I didn’t run out and take up meditating an hour a day, like I imagine some people did after reading this book (and they probably dropped the practice in less than a week).  I loved it because I decided from the beginning that I wasn’t going to love it for the same reasons that everyone else loves it.  If there was any truth in that book, I decided to discover it for myself.
            One of the things I like about Elizabeth Gilbert is that she really, genuinely believes in the trends she follows (most of them, anyway). I had to admire that. 
            But I should probably start at the beginning.
            I had been very excited to read Gilbert’s book, having seen the movie a couple times and really liking it.  I had certain expectations of the book.  Those expectations were fulfilled in practically every way.
            The book was kind of, well, obvious.  But that was okay, because I expected it to be well-written, funny, lighthearted but with a good dose of sober, inspiring and above all, enjoyable, and it was all these things.
            Probably my favorite part of the book (and, from other reviews I’ve read, everyone else’s least favorite part) was the Italy portion at the beginning of the book.  This was partly because I’ve been to Italy and I absolutely love it, and partly because I could sort of relate to Gilbert’s experience there (not so with India and Indonesia).  I loved that she was looking to enjoy pleasure – real pleasure, not sitting in front of a TV and “vegging.”  That’s something that I’ve always believed in, and I really liked her description and experience of it, although it didn’t get as much space as the other portions of the book.
            India would have to be my second favorite.  Like Gilbert, I felt very introspective as I read this part.  She has quite a talent for immersing her readers in her own emotions, and I was beginning to examine myself and my capacity for patience, harmony and love – and what these vague words really mean relating to me.  I had my own realizations regarding my own religious beliefs that were completely different than Gilbert’s realizations.  I liked that Gilbert actually seemed to be meaning for that to happen.  Generally, when I come to different conclusions as I’m reading a book than the author did, I imagine the author would be none too happy to discover that her book didn’t achieve what she meant it to achieve.  But in the case of Gilbert, I felt that she didn’t expect everyone to think the same way and the same things that she thinks.  Actually, I don’t think she wants anyone to come to the same conclusions she did.  It seemed to me that she was encouraging me to have my own spiritual experience, not to take a piece out of hers. 
            Then there was Indonesia, which was…well…even after all this time, I’m not sure what to think of it.  What did she learn there?  It’s not easy to say.  I guess she learned how to be a normal person again.
            The Bali portion was generally enjoyable, but this is the part where she breaks her vow of abstinence for the man she’s in love with.  Okay, that’s better than it could be, although not in my particular line of belief, but I already know she has a different belief system than I do.  My problem isn’t with the fact that she does it…it’s just…I feel pretty awkward when memoirs get so personal.  I mean, if this was a novel, it wouldn’t be that bad – nothing is explicit or anything.  But heck, I don’t even know Elizabeth Gilbert, and yet I now know all these things about her private life.  It’s one thing to read about her eating pizza and meditating; it’s totally another to read about her personal, private life with a man.  I just don’t understand why anyone would put something like that out into the world for any random stranger to read (actually, several million random strangers).  But that’s the world today: nothing is private, everything is shared with everyone else.  And the fact that the book ends on this note of modern trendiness is a little disheartening. 
            Overall, I wouldn’t skip this book just because of its popularity.  I needed a fun read, and this was definitely a fun read without being fluff.  It met all my expectations to a T and even offered a few pearls of wisdom at times.  3 stars.