Wednesday, October 12, 2011

ARCHIVED REVIEW: Eat, Pray, Love (5/12/10)

Eat, Pray, Love
By Elizabeth Gilbert

"As I focus on diligent joy, I also keep remembering a simple idea my friend Darcey told me once -- that all the sorrow and trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people. Not only in the big global Hitler-'n'-Stalin picture, but also on the smallest personal level. Even in my own life, I can see exactly where my episodes of unhappiness have brought suffering or distress or (at the very least) inconvenience to those around me. The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world. Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people." — Elizabeth Gilbert 
(Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia)

This is a memoir of Liz Gilbert, a 34 year old woman who just suffered through a horrific and drawn out divorce, and then an intense relationship with a rebound guy. She realizes she has never been on her own, she has always clung to a man, and so she embarks on a voyage of self-discovery. She explores pleasure (mostly in the form of food) in Italy, prayer and meditation in an Ashram in India, and balance and love in Bali.

So I went into this book thinking I was going to hate it. We read it for book club and I thought it was going to be vapid and self-indulgent. But I was actually very touched and impressed by it. I was a bit annoyed with Liz at the beginning whenever she expressed her depression, but I believe it was partially because I often felt the same way, but didn't want to recognize it in myself. So it was easy to be all judgey-judge outside of the pain, rather than mid-pain, when it is easy to sink into a mire of malaise. The descriptions of the pain and confusion she felt were a great advantage to the book, however, because she let the story run its course: she was in pain when she felt pain, and she was transcendent when she was transcendent. It allowed her a complete journey without "oh if I had known this meditation when I was feeling this pain I could have blah blah blah."

Because I had a hard time letting myself relate to her when she was in pain, I reveled in her descriptions of other people. She has a gift for making characters jump off the page with a few crisp well chosen words. I also loved the historical and cultural tidbits that she stuffed in the corners of her narrative, like how the Italian language we know today was chosen as "official" Italian because it was the dialect of Dante's Inferno, and the most beautiful of the options. Or what the hell an Ashram is and the different types of meditation. Or just how awesome Bali is.

And the wisdom that she gleaned from this journey rang true with me almost every time. I kept having moments of "omg I never realized that!" And the grace that she worked her ass off for inspired me every time.

I admire the sheer tenacity of this woman who took a year off (granted she had the money) and committed not to this decadent vacation, which is what I thought it would be, but to a rigorous, and often grueling quest for happiness.

I recommend it to all women who are unhappy with their lives, so you can be inspired to find a (less expensive) way to seek that solid core of happiness that everyone deserves, and those who are happy with their lives so that you can sit back and appreciate the happy.

If you liked this book, you may like:
A Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs

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