Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was a huge bestseller a few years ago. Everyone seemed to be reading it or talking about it. By everyone, of course, I mean people who read. Not really everyone, since there are people who don’t read. Not that they can’t, you understand. They just don’t. Truly. They are out there.
Because of this hoopla, I didn’t read it. Too many people gushing about how it was wonderful/life-affirming/mind-altering blah blah blah.
Not that it didn’t look like a good book, you understand. I just didn’t want to be a part of the crowd, following blindly behind whoever was telling me it was a ‘must-read’. (I hear some of you laughing at my predictable reaction – stop that!).
Not that I never intended to read it, I just wasn’t going out of my way. I mean, the story of a woman who tries to find spiritual happiness by travelling the world and eating lots of pasta (among other things) – it sounds like a book I would chose to read. So, now that the furor has died – and it was on the sale rack at a certain fantastic local bookstore – I picked it up.
There are a hundred reviews out there to tell you who, what and where, and probably how fantastic/trite/incredible/mind-numbing it is. But here’s why I liked it:
It reads like a memoir, the retelling of an interesting year in the life of Elizabeth Gilbert. I love memoirs.
It’s written by a master observer of the human race, who is fearless in revealing her own failures while refusing to go for the easy shocking-anecdote.
It emphasizes the spiritual exploration as a personal journey, not a beaten path. Even if you believe (for instance) that Jesus Christ is the only path to God and salvation, you cannot argue that everyone finds/invests/believes/comes to that truth in a very particular and individual way.
It contains the perfect explanation of how I often see the world that I’d never articulated before. Gilbert talks about the differences between her and her sister, and while her sister is a master of detail, she is always only interested in the story of a person, place or thing. So – like me – she wouldn’t notice that maybe her bathroom contains 6 different colors, none of which really go together. So, while I’ll probably notice if the bathroom is decorated nicely vs. not, it won’t occur to me that it matters. I only notice if – for instance – all the sinks are hand-painted porcelain and the bathroom stalls are labeled with the names of poker hands (royal flush, full house, etc.. Real Example) – then I’ll want to know the story of why they did that. And if it’s a good story, I’ll never forget it.
It does not try to tell you that you can revamp your whole world in one year, as long as you do this, that, and the other. The book covers a particular year in Gilbert’s life, but she was laying the foundation for her experiences for years before she embarked on this adventure. And she’d done many things to heal after her painful divorce, each of which helped her get to the place where she was ready to jump in with both feet like she did. There are no quick fixes, there is no perfect answer. Pertinent quote:
You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.
She’s not blind to the instances where what she experienced sounds like a cliché, but neither does she shy away from it. Rather, she treats it with both seriousness and humor.
I wish half the things I’ve read about improving your life and finding happiness were so credible and entertaining.