Thursday, January 5, 2012

{Review} Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Published by Penguin Books, 2007 (originally published 2006)
Paperback, 334 pages
ISBN 0143038419
Genres: adult non-fiction, autobiography, memoir, travel, women's fiction, chick lit, spirituality, romance

Synopsis (via Goodreads)In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want--husband, country home, successful career--but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.

My reviewOh my. This book bothers me, and the more I think about it the more my negative feelings intensify. First of all, I don't care for Liz at all. She comes across as needy and dependent-- leech-like, in fact. I'm not saying she's the only person who has ever entertained high school-esque relationships and drama a little too long (i.e. into her thirties), but to regard her emotional and psychological maturing as major breakthroughs? Come now, let's not lose touch with reality... which is something, it seems, "Groceries" does a lot of in this book. She bawls and complains (and then bawls some more) about how hard everything is, about her wrecked marriage, about her horrible, horrible divorce, about how David "broke her heart", about her terrible, eroded self-image, about money at points, and I can't help but think (over the shrieking in my head about how frequently some form of the word "brokenhearted" appears) that she really needs to read Dr. Seuss's Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are. She obviously has no idea how much better she has it than a heck of a lot of other people, quite possibly most people; people who somehow manage to work through grief, tragedies, and trauma without going on year-long quests for personal fulfillment. While still maintaining jobs and their everyday responsibilities. I guess it's frustrating to me that most of her misery was self-imposed and yet throughout much of the book she regards herself as a victim. And for having such a small sense of self-worth she certainly has a grand sense of entitlement.

To be honest about the spiritual aspects of this book, they feel very watered-down. God/Jehovah/Allah/Shiva/Brahma/Vishnu/Zeus forbid we make any definite statements about our beliefs that might offend anyone. I thought this book would involve more serious spiritual discovery and examination, but Liz seems to credulously absorb a little of what everyone tells her until she has a pretty convenient spirituality going on, but with no real foundation or basis, no definite conclusions ever arrived at. On page 175 Ms. Gilbert writes, "You abandon your comforting and familiar habits with the hope (the mere hope!) that something greater will be offered you in return for what you've given up. Every religion in the world operates on the same common understandings of what it means to be a good disciple -- get up early and pray to your God, hone your virtues, be a good neighbor, respect yourself and others, master your cravings." This seems to me to be a pretty shallow perspective of faith. First of all, we are self-sacrificing in order to try to attain something better? Wait a second, I didn't think self-sacrifice was about what has been lost or might be gained, but about the giving itself. And secondly, the next sentence sounds like a general description of a good person, but seems hardly adequate to describe the lifestyle of anyone's disciple.

There are tidbits of this book that were enjoyable (primarily some of the descriptions of Italy and the wonderful-sounding food there), but these hardly make up for the rest of this wishy-washy (and frequently all-too-whiny) "memoir". This book has left a decidedly unpleasant taste in my mouth, and while before starting this book I was interested in some of the author's other works, this interest has died a tragic and heartbroken death... though if her ex-husband ever writes his side of the story, I may be interested in reading it.

Mary Beth


  1. I did consider picking this book up but the blurb on the back did not appeal to me. Now I'm glad I put it back down as needy people annoy me to no end and it would've just ended up collecting dust somewhere.
    Good, honest review. Thank you for being able to put across your thoughts on this book so well :)

  2. Excellent review! You nailed the character of the protagonist.

  3. Thank you so much, Buzz_B and Sharon! I try my best to be objective with reviews, but I must confess this one was a challenge, ha. Buzz, you lucky duck, you were wise to put it down. At least I only spent a quarter on it at my local recycling center, though (which is right back where it went).


I'd love to hear your thoughts!