Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia is a memoir written by Elizabeth Gilbert, an American author. This book was published in February 2006 by the Vikings. After its publishing, this book became The New York Times Best Seller for several months. In this book, she writes her personal experience in travelling across the world after she has divorced with her husband. The book is all about a woman’s journey in seeking to be healed from spiritual and emotional crisis.
Elizabeth Gilbert is in her mid thirties, married and lives in a nice modern house. Despite all these, she becomes unhappy in the marriage due to the fact that she has chosen not to have any children of her own. On the contrary, the husband is desperately in need of a child. This becomes the source of trouble in this marriage and Gilbert thus resorts to be sleeping on her bathroom’s floor. In the end she decides to file for a divorce, something contested by the husband. They try to renew their love but it still seems to be a struggle. She becomes confused as things do not work as per her expectations. Her decisions seem to contravene the normal traditional American lifestyle where women are expected to have children and bring them up in a family.
She therefore decides to travel to different countries, that is; Italy, India, and Indonesia to try and find out how to more of her situation. She does this to compare what she is going through with the happenings in those countries. She tries to find a culture or a situation that suits her and that can also offer a solution to her situation. She writes, “I wanted to explore one aspect of myself set against a backdrop of each country in a place that has traditionally that one thing very well.” She continues by writing, “I wanted to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India, and in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two” (Gilbert, E., 2006). Gilbert’s journey is funded by an advance for this book even before she writes it.
Gilbert effectively uses the experiences she gets in her one year’s journey to bring out her prowess in to the international stage. In Italy, she describes Messina town as a “scary and suspicious Cilician port town …” she continues. “It’s not my fault that ugly! I’ve been earthquaked and carpet bombed and raped by the mafia, too!” (Gilbert, E., 2006). The experiences she gets in these places have helped him present a well written work. In India, while at an ashram, she liberally narrates the kind of meditations that she has. She meditates of a life out of the expensive New York where she would afford an extra bedroom she could use as meditation room.
She was in Italy for four months where she went only to enjoy herself away from the stress of United State’s life. This defines the “Eat” in the title of the book. She writes of coming to Italy pinched and thin, but after eating pizzas and the Italian wine, she adds weight and becomes healthier in body and soul. In India, she takes the following three months finding for herself more of the spirituality. This was characterized by the rigorous yoga meditation that she learns. In the book’s title, the Indian experience represents the “Pray”. The rest of that year is spent in Bali, Indonesia where she has come to find a balance between the two. The balance happens to be her Brazilian love. He is an owner of a factory. She decides to love again after discovering a balance of the two experiences.
The author effectively engages the readers as she goes through the stages of her search journey. She does this by making the reader travel with her through the journey and the journey of discovery by detailing every step. The excitement is maintained throughout the book. She humorously describes herself as a tall and blond lady, something that makes her not physically blend well in most of other places. She also admits of her weakness of doing researches and also writes of her easy digestive woes. She however writes of her travelling prowess seen in her ability to easily make friends, even with the dead and four-foot sheetrock if nobody seems not to around to talk to. She therefore intelligently writes the book with the irresistible colloquialism (Egan, February 26, 2006).
This is a non-fiction book and Elizabeth Gilbert writes a real life personal experience. The author is thus herself a primary source of information, something that makes the book be real and reliable. This is unlike those works that are done with most of the information from secondary sources. Believing the action is normally difficult in such instances. She is the modern woman that is challenged with choosing what is best for her. She realizes that she lacks a lot in terms of self knowledge and the knowledge of God. This is the reason she goes out to look for what she misses. She therefore represents the woman in the developed nations who still lack some self discovery. The things they lack can be found somewhere.
The book has been well written with sections that clearly describes every stage of the journey. Eat is the journey and experiences in Italy, while pray describes the Indian yoga meditations. The last section is on love. This describes the ultimate meeting of a Brazilian with whom they fall in love. It takes place in Bali, Indonesia. She finds the balance between the two. The author writes that the format of this book had been revealed to her earlier while meditating in India. To her, this made her work of writing easier. The book is also divided into 108 chapters which are short and easy to read. Gilbert had earlier written a short story book. This means that she had more knowledge in writing short chapters. The work is therefore easy to read and understand than most other works. This is also a departure from her previous work where she had authored a novel entitled: The last American Man which is not a personal story or work.
The author has been able to fully bring give a representation of a modern woman in the first world countries where married is not seen as very important. The woman in these countries is independent and is busy chasing after careers and education. These have led to the empowerment of women to charter their destinies without restrictions brought about by marriage or child bearing. Unfortunately, there still exists a void that needs to be filled. This is seen when Gilbert goes out in search for God and true happiness through true love. Her experiences in Italy and India answer her questions on God. Her last journey in to Indonesia makes her meet the Brazilian love.
Gilbert’s wit and prowess is evident in the way that she writes the story. First, she only concentrates on her mission of self discovery and nothing else. She also avoids all the digression that is of no consequence. She is open about her feelings and openly tells her story. She avoids all the things that may paint her in the wrong way. This seems to be reason of not mentioning more of their disagreement with the husband. Her travel in less developed nations like India does not make her digress into writing how poor the place is. She is a focused lady who has no business on non consequential things.
Critics have however dismissed this book as not comparable to her previous work. It has flaws that have weakened the intent. Gilbert has not expressly explained her reasons of being unhappy with her marriage. She avoids the issue even as she decides to file for a divorce. After their separation with the husband, she leaves everything to the husband, something that leaves the readers with more questions than answers of her intent. Unfortunately, she becomes depressed in life and decides to look for God. After finding God, things seem not end as expected. Jennifer Egan of The New York Times argues that Gilbert life and her decisions revolve some unresolved stuff that she fails to tell the reader. The omitted confusion, according to Jennifer, should be what dictates real life (Egan, February 26, 2006).
The downplaying of the American culture by the book has also been criticized. Some have pointed out that Gilbert’s work is an endorsement of the eastern thought and culture (Callahan, December 23, 2007). The book seems to be not as strong as the previous ones. Her skills are questionable as the journey that she takes is too self-conscious. It is does not get exposed to the dynamics of life. Considering that the journey took one year as it has been indicated, then more things could have happened than what has been indicated in the book. She insists on telling the audience how the divorce was horrible, something that led to her going away to find herself. The reader is never told what caused the divorce and continues to wonder what really happened. This omission is a weakness in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book.
Her self consciousness in the book is very evident in the way she magically paints herself. She never does anything wrong. All her decisions turn out to be right and without fault. The story also does not show any regret in her life in the whole period that she travels for self discovery. This may be the reason as to why she omits the core reason for divorce, something that should be the core antagonistic reason in the whole story. She fails to show this to the reader. This explains the reason why this work has been mostly criticized by many writers. It does not show the prowess that a writer of her standard should exhibit. Some critics have said that Eat, Pray, Love is only good for beach reading.
Another notable weakness is shown when she is in India. This is the place where more need needed to be seen as the epic of the story, but this is not seen. Her life in India is seen as the most boring accompanied with regrets from the former failed marriage. She allegedly finds God after yoga meditation in this place. This should have been the place where the reader should have been exposed to more of divinity. To the contrary, the woman still thinks of the previous marriage. In fact, most of the experiences are not interesting. It should also be noted that Elizabeth Gilbert represents those young women in the developed societies who feel they are discontented and thirsty despite having all they require for survival. Despite the privilege they have. For instance, she lives in New York City, owning two homes, having a husband, but yet too depressed to settle down in life.
In conclusion, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth is well written book with a clear truth in it due the fact that it is a non-fiction book. It is a personal story that she passionately shares to the readers. Despite of having possessions that people look for, she forfeits them when she discovers that she needs more. With great humor, she narrates her journey to finding emotional and spiritual healing. She eventually achieves her goals within the journey. As much as this book is easy to read, there are weaknesses in terms of literary value. She omits the very important elements that are responsible for making her story a real life one. But generally it is a good book since it is a personal experience.