Eat, Meditate, Speak Italian

So I finished reading Eat, Pray, Love

but before I share my point of view on Elizabeth Gilbert’s spiritual/travel memoir of her journey to find pleasure, devotion, and balance on a trip overseas, I want you to be aware of the vast array of opinions circling this particular text: 
“If a more likable writer than Gilbert is currently in print, I haven’t found him or her,” Jennifer Egan of the New York Times Book Review wrote in a portion of her review. She later continues: “Gilbert’s prose is fueled by a mix of intelligence, wit and colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible, and makes the reader only too glad to join the posse of friends and devotees who have the pleasure of listening in.”
I’ll admit, many of my friends are riding the Gilbert boat all the way to Indonesia. They admire her. They find connection and a sense of “I’ve been there,” much as Gilbert states in her book. While some of my friends loved it, some actually said, read Committed. It is so much better.

A reviewer at Booklist said (in part), “there is never a whiny or pious or dull moment because Gilbert is irreverent, hilarious, zestful, courageous, intelligent, and in masterful command of her sparkling prose.”

But I spoke to a woman today, a stranger, who told me as she raised her spectacles, “Honestly, I just couldn’t get over how whiny she was.”  
Already two different readers disagree, but this seems to be a direct representation of how people feel about the book in general. They’re split. 

So what do I think, then?

In Italy, Gilbert ate everything and talked to everyone. She told us, as if she knew us, why she divorced her husband and how she cried and how she missed her husband; then after the divorce, how she missed her boyfriend, David. She suffers. She suffers. She suffers. Then she eats some more and learns Italian, which she adores. This is Italy.
In India, she prays and meditates and suffers. She talks about meditation and Gurus and love for God. She can’t find a mantra that helps her meditate. Then she finds it. Then she meditates and then there was something about the color blue. She is quiet, then she isn’t. She isn’t at peace and then she sort of is.  
In Indonesia, more specifically, in Bali, she doesn’t suffer as much anymore. She befriends a medicine man, a healer, and a smokin’ hot older Brazilian man named Felipe (among others). Then, finally, she has sex again. 
It’s not that I didn’t like the book, no sirree; I just didn’t love the book. If someone asks me if I like it, I tell them that it was OK. I tell them her prose was too conversational for me. That India was a difficult section to get through. I tell them the section on Italy felt like an infomercial, with constant repetition of how beautiful the language was and guidebook-esque descriptions of the city of Rome and its people. And yes, Gilbert complains or whines or whatever the term you choose to use for dealing with suffering and guilt and depression. She is dealing. But at one point or another you just want to shout to the book, “Hey, we get it already, Liz. You’re in pain and we wish it wasn’t that way. But could you just stop talking about it all the time?” And note, if you aren’t into meditation, religion, the concept of God, or yoga, or of any mindset related to those spiritual practices, then you might want to rethink reading Eat, Pray, Love.

But the book wasn’t all just OK. The third section, Gilbert’s trek to Indonesia, is what makes this book worth reading. With characters like Ketut Liyer, Wayan, Felipe, Mario, Tutti, and Yudhi and the little bits of Sanskrit, Italian, and Indonesian thrown in, Eat, Pray, Love comes alive with a colorful story of a country that had been ruined by war, but had grown a heart and a sense of individuality incomparable to anywhere else in the world. And more, this book is inspirational. It screams, “You know you want to eat what I’m eating. You wish you knew Italian like I do. You can’t even imagine what it’s like to see a real Ashram. You think your baby has no teeth? Well you should see this guy in Bali!” And I know I said certain people would probably not enjoy this book*, but there exists a terribly large amount of people who would, those people who have been Liz, have been divorced, have lost their way, and who never want to feel that hurt again.  

*If you didn’t quite get if I’d actually recommend this book, I would. Just not to some people. And plus, the movie looks like it’ll be splendid (comes out August 13, 2010).

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