Saturday, March 14, 2009

Eat Pray Love

I have a book recommendation.

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Here is the synopsis from Publisher's Weekly: "Plagued with despair after a nasty divorce, the author, in her early 30s, divides a year equally among three dissimilar countries, exploring her competing urges for earthly delights and divine transcendence. First, pleasure: savoring Italy's buffet of delights--the world's best pizza, free-flowing wine and dashing conversation partners--Gilbert consumes la dolce vita as spiritual succor. "I came to Italy pinched and thin," she writes, but soon fills out in waist and soul. Then, prayer and ascetic rigor: seeking communion with the divine at a sacred ashram in India, Gilbert emulates the ways of yogis in grueling hours of meditation, struggling to still her churning mind. Finally, a balancing act in Bali, where Gilbert tries for equipoise "betwixt and between" realms, studies with a merry medicine man and plunges into a charged love affair. Sustaining a chatty, conspiratorial tone, Gilbert fully engages readers in the year's cultural and emotional tapestry--conveying rapture with infectious brio, recalling anguish with touching candor--as she details her exotic tableau with history, anecdote and impression."

But that doesn't do it justice. The book is separated into 3 equal "acts", each "act" being 36 chapters long. This brings the total book to 108 chapters, a mystical number which the author explains along the way.

I loved all three acts. In the first act, she indulges in Italian food while living in Rome, healing from her divorce. She is so depressed and negative, and needs to feed her soul. She gains friends, peace, 20 pounds, and learns to speak Italian (just because it sounds beautiful and she needs SOMETHING of beauty in her life - what a great reason to learn a language!) She then moves on to India, where she spends months meditating on the meaning of life at an Ashram. This is a soul changing period. Finally, she ends up in Bali, where she falls in love.

What makes this book so special though, apart from the unique structure, is the journey the reader goes along with the author. She is so insightful, honest, funny, and TRUE. It's a testament to self-empowerment. Yes, she falls in love at the end. No, he is NOT her saviour like in some romance novel... she saved herself.

Some reviews on Amazon call the book "self-indulgent" as though that is a bad thing. This is a book about one person's spiritual journey. Of COURSE it's going to be self-indulgent in parts. There would be no story if not for the initial depression and pain, followed by the journey to self-discovery and contentment. Part of my (non-clinical) definition of depression is a whiny self-indulgence that precludes one from noticing others. I did find that throughout the book, as Ms. Gilbert gets better, she does pay attention to others' plights and even become a fundraiser for a poor family to the point of being able to buy them land and build a house for them, etc. So let's be fair! I think this could be a life changing book, if I let it "stick" with me and don't forget it so soon by jumping in to the next book.

I also loved her other book, a biography titled 'The Last American Man". I highly recommend both.

PS The picture is the author with her "yoda-like" Indonesian medicine man.


Angela said...

Hey Mika,

I remember this book from over a year ago. I almost bought it. The ladies in my empty nest group were it at the time. However, the reviews were mixed. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I may read it after all. We can all relate to journeys right? How befitting right now.

Single PAP said...

OMG - this is one of my all time favorite books!! absolutely LOVED it and have to restrain myself from doing that exact thing..jumping ship and running off to find myself as i travel around the world.