Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Penguin Books, 2006
331 pages

Quite possibly I'm the last American woman to read this book. Subtitled One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, my initial reaction upon hearing about it was to want to barf. After all, it was about a WASP-y rich female from New York who was going through a divorce and (shock!) a sort of mid-life crisis. The whole concept seemed so . . . self-indulgent. But several of my friends kept bugging me to read it (you know who you are!) so I finally gave in. 

The book is cleverly divided into 108 chapters (3 sections of 36 "tales"). There's a reason for that, but you'll have to read it in the preface. The first section takes place in Rome, where the author experiences four months of food hedonism. OMG, the talk of food will leave your stomach growling. She obviously had a blast. Her attempts to learn (and translate) Italian are hysterical - especially this one "scene" involving a football fan in a stadium. I laughed almost all the way through this section.

India is next. She goes here to detox (so to speak) from all the excesses of Italy. Her time is spent at the ashram of her unnamed Guru. The strict life (up at 3AM for prayers and chanting; menial tasks and manual labor; living in silence) is the exact opposite of her experiences in Rome. Her quest is to know God. I thought this part would be really boring, but once I got through the first few chapters, it was fine. The Texan cowboy character (among several at the ashram) is a total hoot.

From India, she travels to Bali in Indonesia. She considered this to be her destiny, as she was once told (in a previous visit) by an old Balinese medicine man that she would eventually come back there and study with him. Her descriptions of Bali, the culture, and her often funny stories of the medicine man and other local people, were good enough for me to read aloud to S, who lived in Indonesia back in the 1990s. ("Um hum," she'd say knowingly.) The downside (?) to the Indonesia section is that here, the author takes a lover, and for at least a couple of chapters we're forced to read all about her sex life, which I was not particularly interested in. That part was seriously self-indulgent.

So the author got some sort of huge cash advance before she even wrote the book because she already has an established writing career. She probably would not start out her sentences with the word "so." Despite this, and despite a few pukey moments of the aforementioned self-indulgence, Eat, Pray, Love was decent enough for me to finish. It might be a good summer read for all you female readers out there (maybe some males, but I doubt it) who are looking for something a little different. Yes, I'm leaving out all kinds of stuff, like the whole new age-y growth experience thing. But I've been through that myself, so it's no big thing to me.

Rating: 4 stars.