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I finally did it. I finally read “Eat Pray Love.”
For those of you who don’t know, “Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia” is a book by novelist and travel writer Elizabeth Gilbert. And while the movie starring Julia Roberts was super popular, the writer and book have become pretty controversial.
Gilbert decides to travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia to find the best versions of herself after a gruesome divorce. She travels to Italy to learn about pleasure. She goes to India to learn about devotion. She travels to Indonesia to pursue balance between pleasure and devotion.
So here we go. Here is my blog version of a book report on “Eat Pray Love.” And why, ultimately, I think it’s worth reading.
Rich, White Lady?
My biggest reservation about buying this book could be attributed to what I had heard a lot of people say: “Ugh. Just another privileged, white lady. Of course she can afford to travel the world. She’s rich!”
They all had a point. Globetrotting is a pretty luxurious way to get over a divorce.
So, yes, I was skeptical. But I actually really enjoyed the book. (Maybe because I’m also a privileged, white lady …?)
I’ve been trying to judge people, especially writers, less harshly simply because they have money. I shouldn’t hate someone just because they’re rich. Now, if someone is a jerk as a result of their money, then I might have trouble liking them.
But I have to face the facts. I’m privileged. Granted, I’m from a middle class family, and I can’t fathom being able to travel the way Elizabeth Gilbert does in “Eat Pray Love.” But as someone who grew up middle class, I’m definitely richer than most people in the world. And I’m white. And I come from an emotionally supportive family. That’s privilege.
I would hope that people who read my work wouldn’t throw it aside simply because I might have more money than some of them. I would hope they would try to look past that, even though it’s instinctual for most of us to judge people from different lifestyles.
As I read “Eat Pray Love,” I realized Gilbert isn’t preaching to readers to do what she does. She doesn’t try to make a case for buying a bicycle in Indonesia or eating out every day in Italy. Or even for traveling the world as a way to recover from grief. She just tells what happened to her. And if she’s just telling her experience, should I really hate on her for that?
Travel as a Means of Healing
A huge focus of this book is the topic of healing. From her divorce. From her heartbreak. From depression and loneliness. She also spends a third of her travels in Indonesia, where she explores the idea of holistic healing.
Sometimes traveling makes Gilbert even lonelier and more depressed than she was before. She still travels, though. Why?
Because she knows the experiences will heal her in the long run. She looks at the long term. She faces some of the same realistic, non-magical experiences in traveling as I have. I truly appreciate her take on the entire trip. She doesn’t bullshit readers into thinking traveling is some perfect, Instagram-esque excursion. Instead, she delves into the deeper benefits of exploring the world.
God and Meditation
Okay, here’s where we get to my mixed feelings about “Eat Pray Love.”
On one hand, I really respect Gilbert’s views on God. They are so different than the Christianity I was raised with, so it’s fun to read about different thoughts on spiritual topics.
My favorite part is that when she journals, she writes to God … then writes God’s responses. As weird as that sounds, it reflects that she finds God in the depths of herself. And the way she does it is really powerful.
In a moment of depression and self-loathing, she writes (or God writes to her?), “Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend.” This passage is one of my favorite parts of the book.
However, some of her thoughts on God and meditation are just a little too trippy for me. (So, to be honest, if you’re really into spirituality, yoga, and meditation, you might actually enjoy this book even more than I did.)
I’m really not into the whole Eastern medicine thing. To each his own, but it’s not my jam. I lived in China for eight months where everyone swore by Eastern medicine, and I still could not buy into it. So that part of the book got on my nerves.
She also really gets down on herself for taking medication for her depression. I love my anxiety/depression medication. It rocks my world. Maybe it isn’t for you, but don’t hate on medication!
Lastly, everything with the medicine man in this book upsets me. He seems like a lovely guy, but I don’t dig his prophesy for her life. Especially since this book came out over 10 years ago, and if you look up the details of Gilbert’s life now, parts of his prophesy just didn’t happen.
I won’t get into that whole rant.
But that’s arguably the best part of both traveling and reading. We see things from new perspectives, even if we don’t agree with them. I truly respect how Gilbert treats Indonesian people in regards to God, culture, and medicine. She doesn’t bash them, but she (usually) doesn’t get super caught up in their views, either. She seems to have a very healthy method of immersing herself in cultures.
Ultimately, let me say that Elizabeth Gilbert is a marvelous travel writer. As a traveler and writer, I wanted to read this book to learn from her style. And I did.
Any travel writers/wannabe travel writers should check out “Eat Pray Love.”
(P.S. – Yes, you should read the introduction to the book.)