Oprah’s done it, and so has one in four American women, so it seems. And now, so have I. I’ve joined the legions of women oohing and awing over Elizabeth Gilbert’s
Eat, Pray, Love
. I’d heard how fabulous it is, heard it lauded by Oprah,
The Los Angeles Times,
the New York Times Book Review, and
. But now I too must stand up and give a round of applause to Elizabeth Gilbert. And I’ll go a step further and sing the book’s praises in this blog.
Gilbert did what most writers fail to do—she wrote a memoir that covers an extended period of time, but she managed to keep the reader engaged page after page. The book was divided neatly into three sections, one for each country she visited. It didn’t feel three hundred and thirty-one pages long; Instead, it felt like three extended short stories, connected by theme, time, and spirit.
Each country’s section could almost read as a stand-alone, but together, they told how she ascended from the ashes of the “ideal” life she purposefully destroyed to the center of a new life rich in fulfillment and purpose. Italy described her love affair with food, India, her love affair with God, and Indonesia, her love affair with…well, I won’t spoil the surprise.
Although I don’t agree with either her new-age beliefs or with many of her feminist practices, (I label myself a Christ-centered feminist), I appreciate her courage and her candidness. Anyone willing to go on a year’s journey with the sole purpose of finding peace and meaning, with little in the bank to back her up gets my respect. And anyone willing to write about it blow by blow, teardrop upon teardrop, replete with embarrassing details, gets mad props from me as well.
Her memoir was delightfully honest, oh-so-memorable, and at times felt magical. As a reader, I was amazed at her ability to weave together past and present experiences, spirit and body encounters.
To present three different countries, a dozen characters, and detail the workings of her inner world over the course of one year was a monstrous task, which she mastered beautifully. Page by page, she spun her web of words around me, drawing me into her whirlwind journey. I felt…seduced by it. Seduced because although she did grow in her spirituality, I felt that she missed the Ultimate Spirit. And her revelations, although profound and life-changing, felt incomplete and resultantly lacking in the depth that they could have had.
Some of my friends don’t like the book because they say that they can’t identity with Gilbert. To her she feels too elitist, unable to paint accurate pictures of the people she encounters, her vision tainted by her privilege. Maybe they’re right. Gilbert is a privileged white American woman who writes from
tone. But that’s what any great memoirist does; they share the world from
perspective. I suspect that my friends just don’t like her, or her privilege, which is fine.
I enjoyed spending several hours of my life, over the course of several weeks, reading about her life. Mine is definitely richer because of it. I am making it a point to enjoy my food more, enjoy just being in God’s presence, and am opening up my heart to love. Life’s greatest joys are indeed found in three small words: eat, pray, love.