Publishing Date: February 16, 2006/Viking
Synopsis: (Powells)A celebrated writer's irresistible, candid, and eloquent account of her pursuit of worldly pleasure, spiritual devotion, and what she really wanted out of life.
Here's the scenario: You're 35 years old, you've just been through a very trying time and need some cheering up. Money is no factor, what would you do? I took less than two seconds to come up with my answer - I would travel the world! Travel is the answer to all my woes, and apparently Elizabeth Gilbert agrees with me for that's what she did when she found her marriage was crumbling and her personal life becoming one long, sad story. She then recorded the journey to find herself, in a touching book called "Eat Pray Love".
She started out in Rome, Italy where she found solace in gelatos (and all those foods health pundits tell you are bad for you) and sexy- as-hell Italian men. I had often wondered why so many people chose Italy to start anew, now I know! :) Next she travelled to India where she stayed in an Ashram , somewhere in the back of beyond, renewing her spiritual self. Her quest to learn to meditate and her meanderings on philosophy are actually quite interesting to read. Finally, she ends up in lush Bali where she does the very thing she swore she wouldn't - she falls in love again! Her descriptions of the Balinese people, their culture, society and especially their medicine people are so entertaining and informative.
The book has been uniquely divided into 108 tales to represent the 108 beads of the "Japa Mala" which is a string of beads used by Hindus and Buddhists for centuries to assist them in staying focused during prayerful meditation.
I love Elizabeth Gilbert's writing; her willingness to show her vulnerability along her road to self-discovery and her self-depracating humor endears one to her story. There is a lot of food for thought in this gem of a book and I especially like the argument she makes for doing what you love versus what society expects you to do. Along the way she meets a whole host of interesting people whose conversations she records in her book, making for very interesting reading.
For instance, on page 103, her friend Luca Spaghetti (isn't that a great name?) explains to her that every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most people who live there.
"...if you could read people's thoughts as they were passing you on the streets of any given place, you would discover that most of them are thinking the same thought. Whatever that majority thought might be- that is the word of the city. And if your personal word does not match the word of the city, then you don't really belong there."
According to Luca, SEX was Rome's word and for the Vatican it is POWER. In New York City the word is ACHIEVE, in Stockholm its CONFORM, in Naples it is FIGHT and so on. I tried to think of a word that might define Ontario, where I live, and I think an accurate one for it might be CIVIL. People are so awfully polite and well-mannered here that as a visitor you might be prompted to think an outbreak of "sorryitis" has hit the province!
What's the word for your city?
And, if you're having fun with that, we can extend it to ourselves - what is the one word that would describe you completely? I have realized I am a lifelong learner, but I also like to inform, so I am not sure if there's one word that would describe that for me. If you think of something, let me know! :)
Update: For another review and a take that is slightly different from mine, please refer to Zee's Space where my friend and fellow blogger, ml, has done an excellent job writing down her thoughts on the book.