My rating: 3 of 5 stars
"But why must everything always have a practical application? I'd been such a diligent soldier for years - working, producing, never missing a deadline, taking care of my loved ones, my gums and my credit record, voting etc. Is this lifetime supposed to be only about duty?" - Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love is a memoir of the adventure and experience undertaken by the author after a failed marriage and a failed rebound relationship.
Suffering severe depression, Gilbert makes the decision to take twelve months off from life and all the responsibilities that come with it, and embark on a spiritual journey across Italy, India and Indonesia (Bali).
In Italy she eats; in India she prays; and in Bali she discovers what it truly means to love.
This memoir starts out brilliantly: It was so easy to empathise and sympathise with Gilbert as she faces the reality that her seemingly perfect life is not making her happy; in fact, the weight of expectation placed on her by her husband and her family has made her uncontrollably miserable.
But Italy was so much fun! There was so much adventure, and so much discovery: It made me want to go to Italy - Just jump on a plane and go, right now! I was totally engrossed, and in retrospect I feel that it was Italy where Gilbert's true spiritual transformation took place.
Unfortunately for me, Gilbert left Italy and travelled onto India where she spent months in an Ashram trying to reach spiritual enlightenment, before moving onto Bali where she intends to learn wisdom from a medicine man, but instead ends up spending a lot of her time...with her new boyfriend. Neither India nor Bali had the excitement and intrigue of Italy. Her experiences in Italy were more honest, I felt. Her emotions there were raw, and it was in Italy that she was able to break through the cacoon of depression that had kept her trapped for such a long time. It was Italy where she truly let go of all responsibility and just let herself enjoy the adventure she was on. Italy was all about being lost in language, food and fun, which is exactly how everyone should spend their existence.
In other reviews Gilbert has been criticised for having her publisher fund her "spiritual journey" by agreeing to write a memoir on it before she had even caught the first flight. I believe this highlights how unrealistic taking this type of journey would be for many people, and raises some doubts (in my mind, at least) as to the accuracy of what has been written. Had she funded the journey herself and only wrote the memoir as an after-thought, I personally feel I would have enjoyed it more.
Despite its flaws, Eat, Pray, Love acts as a starting point for reassessing the responsibilities in our lives, to think about what truly makes us happy, and then to find the courage to take the plunge and make it happen. Too often we find ourselves so caught up in "duty" that we forget to take the time to just enjoy life, and for that reason this book gets 3 stars from me.