Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir about a year spent travelling in Italy, India and Indonesia in search of inner peace, is the latest in my collection of “spiritual journey memoirs” and destined to be one of my all-time favourites. I read it in about twenty-four hours and it wouldn’t even be accurate to say I devoured the book — it was more like I inhaled it, racing through the pages as if I were being pulled along in Gilbert’s wake on her trip around the world.
After a devastating divorce and the break-up of her post-divorce love affair, Elizabeth Gilbert was left depressed and shattered. She decided (with the help of an advance from a publisher, which always helps in these matters) to take a year off travelling the world and trying to put herself back together. She spent four months in Italy immersing herself in the pursuit of pleasure, mostly in the form of really good pasta and platonic relationships with gorgeous young Italian men. Next, she went to an Indian ashram for four months to study meditation (this wasn’t on a whim — she had already been practicing yoga seriously for several years). Finally, she wound up on the front porch of an ancient medicine man in Bali, living there for four months while she tried to figure out how to balance the life of pleasure and the life of devotion.
I also would like to know how to balance the life of pleasure and the life of devotion. I also would not mind having four months in Bali to work it out. But perhaps surprisingly, I did not feel resentful of Elizabeth Gilbert’s options, or consider her a self-centred, pampered North American on a self-absorbed Quest for Meaning. This is probably because her writing is so honest, funny and engaging that I was completely drawn into the story and felt like I knew the author as a friend.
Gilbert comes across as completely sincere — her story reminded me in some ways of Jennifer Cox’s Around the World in 80 Dates, but there was no sense of frivolity or manipulation in Eat, Pray, Love because the spiritual aspect of her quest was undeniably real. I found this book absorbing, entertaining, and thought-provoking.