Yes, this month’s Read the World country is Italy! I should announce it officially instead of in the review of the first book…oh well.
Anyway, I could’ve opted for a serious Italian book, something deeply meaningful and boring, but then I thought, “Self, why can’t I read a fun Italian book. Does life always have to be deeply meaningful and emotionally exhausting?” Sometime you need some levity (which Elizabeth Gilbert would be all about), so I opted for Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Which happens to be both deeply meaningful and contains massive doses of levity—plus, a third of the book takes place in India, so it’s Italy and India in one dose.
Upon the implosion of her marriage and the toxicity of a rebound relationship, Elizabeth decides that she needs a break and to find that elusive happiness. She’s always wanted to go to Italy, she wants to study yoga from her guru in India, and a medicine man in Bali, Indonesia prophesied her return to that country.
So the plan was born: She’d spend four months in each location and eat and pray herself across the eastern hemisphere. And if this journey happened to teach her the most valuable lessons about herself, faith, and love, then all the better. She didn’t realize that this sabbatical and the people she’d meet would heal her broken spirit.
I only have one issue with this book, and it’s not really about the book or even about Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s more an issue with the modern philosophy that you can chase after and find happiness, when happiness is from inside, a choice we make. She realizes this in time. She finds happiness not by exploring a new place, but by exploring an old one—namely, the walls and corridors and culture of her own soul.
The Characters. There’s not much to say here because the author didn’t create these characters, she just captured them in real life. But kudos to her for painting them in such vivid detail and tactile texture. Richard the Texan might’ve been my favorite of the bunch with his homespun wisdom. It must be a Texas thing.
The Storyline. I’m a big fan of organization, so I loved the way that she divided her year-long journey into three parts, and then titled her book with those lessons she learned in each place.
The Writing. Elizabeth Gilbert is funny and clever and an amazing writer. I could have hated the message and the characters and would have loved the book for her writing alone, the soul-searing prose studded generously with irreverent humor.
But it’s her discoveries about herself that really resonates with me because they are universal. She discovers that it’s okay to be lonely and lost, that there is a piece of the divine in all of us, that we should love ourselves—the one person who will not leave us. She discovers that we need to know ourselves and (this is all me) that we can find that person through serving others. She discovers that you can choose happiness:
“I’m choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.”
This book makes you laugh and think, a perfect combination of the serious and the comical. It’ll urge to reevaluate yourself, but in the kindest way possible; it’s worth reading for this alone.