Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

( 3352 )

Overview

A transformational journey through Italy, India, and Bali searching for pleasure and devotion—the massive bestseller from the author of The Signature of All Things

This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers. Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out ...

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Overview

A transformational journey through Italy, India, and Bali searching for pleasure and devotion—the massive bestseller from the author of The Signature of All Things

This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers. Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali. By turns rapturous and rueful, this wise and funny author (whom Booklist calls “Anne Lamott’s hip, yoga- practicing, footloose younger sister”) is poised to garner yet more adoring fans.

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  • Eat, Pray, Love
    Eat, Pray, Love  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Oddly but aptly titled, Eat, Pray, Love is an experience to be savored: This spiritual memoir brims with humor, grace, and scorching honesty. After a messy divorce and other personal missteps, Elizabeth Gilbert confronts the "twin goons" of depression and loneliness by traveling to three countries that she intuited had something she was seeking. First, in Italy, she seeks to master the art of pleasure by indulging her senses. Then, in an Indian ashram, she learns the rigors and liberation of mind-exalting hours of meditation. Her final destination is Bali, where she achieves a precarious, yet precious equilibrium. Gilbert's original voice and unforced wit lend an unpretentious air to her expansive spiritual journey.
Grace Lichtenstein
The only thing wrong with this readable, funny memoir of a magazine writer's yearlong travels across the world in search of pleasure and balance is that it seems so much like a Jennifer Aniston movie.
— The Washington Post
The New Yorker
At the age of thirty-one, Gilbert moved with her husband to the suburbs of New York and began trying to get pregnant, only to realize that she wanted neither a child nor a husband. Three years later, after a protracted divorce, she embarked on a yearlong trip of recovery, with three main stops: Rome, for pleasure (mostly gustatory, with a special emphasis on gelato); an ashram outside of Mumbai, for spiritual searching; and Bali, for “balancing.” These destinations are all on the beaten track, but Gilbert’s exuberance and her self-deprecating humor enliven the proceedings: recalling the first time she attempted to speak directly to God, she says, “It was all I could do to stop myself from saying, ‘I’ve always been a big fan of your work.’ ”
Publishers Weekly
Gilbert (The Last American Man) grafts the structure of romantic fiction upon the inquiries of reporting in this sprawling yet methodical travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery. Plagued with despair after a nasty divorce, the author, in her early 30s, divides a year equally among three dissimilar countries, exploring her competing urges for earthly delights and divine transcendence. First, pleasure: savoring Italy's buffet of delights-the world's best pizza, free-flowing wine and dashing conversation partners-Gilbert consumes la dolce vita as spiritual succor. "I came to Italy pinched and thin," she writes, but soon fills out in waist and soul. Then, prayer and ascetic rigor: seeking communion with the divine at a sacred ashram in India, Gilbert emulates the ways of yogis in grueling hours of meditation, struggling to still her churning mind. Finally, a balancing act in Bali, where Gilbert tries for equipoise "betwixt and between" realms, studies with a merry medicine man and plunges into a charged love affair. Sustaining a chatty, conspiratorial tone, Gilbert fully engages readers in the year's cultural and emotional tapestry-conveying rapture with infectious brio, recalling anguish with touching candor-as she details her exotic tableau with history, anecdote and impression. (On sale Feb. 20) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
An interest in the human condition is the common thread that ties together Gilbert's diverse body of work, ranging from a collection of short stories (Pilgrim) to a novel discussing the outdoor lifestyle of Eustace Conway (The Last American Man). In her new work, she continues her exploration of the human psyche through a very personal journey of self-discovery in three countries: Italy, India, and Indonesia. In Italy, her first escape, she devours the food and the melodic language with equal gusto. In India, she decamps to an ashram to learn the intense discipline prayer and spiritual pilgrimage require, in the process revealing the depths to be found in reflection, meditation, and historical teachings. In Indonesia, she generates strong friendships and gains insight into homeopathic medicines, healing, and the complexities of different cultures. Throughout, she candidly shares her observations and emotions as she grows from a woman shattered, lost, and confused to one rejuvenated, confident, and in love. A probing, thoughtful title with a free and easy style, this work seamlessly blends history and travel for a very enjoyable read. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/05.]-Jo-Anne Mary Benson, Osgoode, Ont. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An unsuccessful attempt at a memoir from novelist and journalist Gilbert (The Last American Man, 2002, etc.). While weeping one night on the bathroom floor because her marriage was falling apart, the author had a profound spiritual experience, crying out to and hearing an answer of sorts from God. Eventually, Gilbert left her husband, threw herself headlong into an intense affair, then lapsed into as intense a depression when the affair ended. After all that drama, we get to the heart of this book, a year of travel during which the author was determined to discover peace and pleasure. In Rome, she practiced Italian and ate scrumptious food. Realizing that she needed to work on her "boundary issues," she determined to forego the pleasure of sex with Italian men. In India, she studied at the ashram of her spiritual guru (to whom she had been introduced by the ex-lover), practiced yoga and learned that in addition to those pesky difficulties with boundaries, she also had "control issues." Finally she headed to Bali, where she became the disciple of a medicine man, befriended a single mother and fell in love with another expat. Quirky supporting characters pop up here and there, speaking a combination of wisdom and cliche. At the ashram, for example, she meets a Texan who offers such improbable aphorisms as, "You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be." Gilbert's divorce and subsequent depression, which she summarizes in about 35 pages, are in fact more interesting than her year of travel. The author's writing is prosaic, sometimes embarrassingly so: "I'm putting this happiness in a bank somewhere, not merely FDIC protected but guarded by my four spiritbrothers."Lacks the sparkle of her fiction.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143038412
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 1/30/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 34,883
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert began her writing journey with two acclaimed works of fiction: the short story collection Pilgrims, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the novel Stern Men, a New York Times Notable Book. These were followed by three works of nonfiction: The Last American Man, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and two memoirs, Eat, Pray, Love and Committed, both of which were number one New York Times bestsellers. Gilbert’s work has been published in more than thirty languages. In 2008, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She lives in Frenchtown, New Jersey.  Her Web site is www.elizabethgilbert.com.

Biography

While Elizabeth Gilbert's roots are in journalism -- she's a Pushcart Prize-winning and National Magazine Award-nominated writer -- it's her books that have granted her even more attention.

Gilbert departed from reporting in 1997, with the publication of her first collection of short fiction, Pilgrims. A finalist for the 1998 PEN/Hemingway Award, Pilgrims was also selected as a New York Times Notable Book, was listed as one of the "Most Intriguing Books of 1997" by Glamour magazine, and went on to win best first fiction awards from The Paris Review, The Southern Review, and Ploughshares.

Since then, Gilbert has successfully alternated between fiction and nonfiction -- a high-wire act that has paid off in a string of critically acclaimed bestsellers that includes her first full-length novel, Stern Men (2000); The Last American Man (2002), a National Book Award for Nonfiction; and Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia (2006), a celebrated spiritual memoir that landed on several year-end Best Books lists.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Gilbert:

"I was once observed talking in my sleep, smiling with deep bliss as I said, ‘Ah...the writer's life!'"

"I was a terrible crybaby and coward as a child. I still cry a lot and am afraid of many things, like, for instance, surfing, skiing, and the possibility that somebody somewhere might be mad at me."

"I once accosted Wally Shawn in a restaurant where I was a waitress and he was a patron. I said to him something like, ‘You're a lovely, lovely man who writes lovely, lovely plays! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Wally Shawn!' He backed away slowly."

"I am far more of a loner than people would imagine. But I am the most gregarious and socially interactive loner you ever met. The thing is, I am fascinated by people's stories and I'm very talkative and can't ever say No to anything or anyone, so I tend to over-socialize, to give away too much of my time to the many people I adore. Therefore, one of the only ways I can ever be alone is if I go traveling solo. This is the secret reason I travel so much, and to such distant places. To get away from everyone I know. I love my friends and family, but I also love it when they can't find me and I can spend all day reading or walking all alone, in silence, eight thousand miles away from everyone. All alone and unreachable in a foreign country is one my most favorite possible things to be."

"The Disney movie Coyote Ugly was based on an article I wrote for GQ about my experience as a bartender in an East Village dive. I just had to add that bizarre fact because I still can't really believe it myself."

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    1. Hometown:
      Hudson Valley, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 18, 1969
    2. Place of Birth:
      Waterbury, Connecticut
    1. Education:
      BA, New York University, 1991 (Political Science)
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

1

I wish Giovanni would kiss me.

Oh, but there are so many reasons why this would be a terrible idea. To begin with, Giovanni is ten years younger than I am, and, like most Italian guys in their twenties, he still lives with his mother. These facts alone make him an unlikely romantic partner for me, given that I am a professional American woman in my mid-thirties, who has just come through a failed marriage and a devastating, interminable divorce, followed immediately by a passionate love affair that ended in sickening heartbreak. This loss upon loss has left me feeling sad and brittle and about seven thousand years old. Purely as a matter of principle I wouldn't inflict my sorry, busted-up old self on the lovely, unsullied Giovanni. Not to mention that I have finally arrived at that age where a woman starts to question whether the wisest way to get over the loss of one beautiful brown-eyed young man is indeed to promptly invite another one into her bed. This is why I have been alone for many months now. This is why, in fact, I have decided to spend this entire year in celibacy.

To which the savvy observer might inquire: 'Then why did you come to Italy?'

To which I can only reply—especially when looking across the table at handsome Giovanni— 'Excellent question.'

Giovanni is my Tandem Exchange Partner. That sounds like an innuendo, but unfortunately it's not. All it really means is that we meet a few evenings a week here in Rome to practice each other's languages. We speak first in Italian, and he is patient with me; then we speak in English, and I am patient with him. I discovered Giovanni a few weeks after I'd arrived in Rome, thanks to that big Internet cafè at the Piazza Barbarini, across the street from that fountain with the sculpture of that sexy merman blowing into his conch shell. He (Giovanni, that is—not the merman) had posted a flier on the bulletin board explaining that a native Italian speaker was seeking a native English speaker for conversational language practice. Right beside his appeal was another flier with the same request, word-for-word identical in every way, right down to the typeface. The only difference was the contact information. One flier listed an e-mail address for somebody named Giovanni; the other introduced somebody named Dario. But even the home phone number was the same.

Using my keen intuitive powers, I e-mailed both men at the same time, asking in Italian, "Are you perhaps brothers?"

It was Giovanni who wrote back this very provocativo message: "Even better. Twins!"

Yes—much better. Tall, dark and handsome identical twenty-five-year-old twins, as it turned out, with those giant brown liquid-center Italian eyes that just unstitch me. After meeting the boys in person, I began to wonder if perhaps I should adjust my rule somewhat about remaining celibate this year. For instance, perhaps I could remain totally celibate except for keeping a pair of handsome twenty-five-year-old Italian twin brothers as lovers. Which was slightly reminiscent of a friend of mine who is vegetarian except for bacon, but nonetheless ... I was already composing my letter to Penthouse:

In the flickering, candlelit shadows of the Roman café, it was impossible to tell whose hands were caress

But, no.

No and no.

I chopped tvhe fantasy off in mid-word. This was not my moment to be seeking romance and (as day follows night) to further complicate my already knotty life. This was my moment to look for the kind of healing and peace that can only come from solitude.

Anyway, by now, by the middle of November, the shy, studious Giovanni and I have become dear buddies. As for Dario—the more razzle-dazzle swinger brother of the two—I have introduced him to my adorable little Swedish friend Sofie, and how they've been sharing their evenings in Rome is another kind of Tandem Exchange altogether. But Giovanni and I, we only talk. Well, we eat and we talk. We have been eating and talking for many pleasant weeks now, sharing pizzas and gentle grammatical corrections, and tonight has been no exception. A lovely evening of new idioms and fresh mozzarella.

Now it is midnight and foggy, and Giovanni is walking me home to my apartment through these back streets of Rome, which meander organically around the ancient buildings like bayou streams snaking around shadowy clumps of cypress groves. Now we are at my door. We face each other. He gives me a warm hug. This is an improvement; for the first few weeks, he would only shake my hand. I think if I were to stay in Italy for another three years, he might actually get up the juice to kiss me. On the other hand, he might just kiss me right now, tonight, right here by my door ... there's still a chance ... I mean we're pressed up against each other's bodies beneath this moonlight ... and of course it would be a terrible mistake ... but it's still such a wonderful possibility that he might actually do it right now ... that he might just bend down ... and ... and ... Nope.

He separates himself from the embrace.

"Good night, my dear Liz," he says.

"Buona notte, caro mio," I reply.

I walk up the stairs to my fourth-floor apartment, all alone. I let myself into my tiny little studio, all alone. I shut the door behind me. Another solitary bedtime in Rome. Another long night's sleep ahead of me, with nobody and nothing in my bed except a pile of Italian phrasebooks and dictionaries.

I am alone, I am all alone, I am completely alone.

Grasping this reality, I let go of my bag, drop to my knees and press my forehead against the floor. There, I offer up to the universe a fervent prayer of thanks.

First in English.

Then in Italian.

And then—just to get the point across—in Sanskrit.

2

And since I am already down there in supplication on the floor, let me hold that position as I reach back in time three years earlier to the moment when this entire story began—a moment which also found me in this exact same posture: on my knees, on a floor, praying.

Everything else about the three-years-ago scene was different, though. That time, I was not in Rome but in the upstairs bathroom of the big house in the suburbs of New York which I'd recently purchased with my husband. It was a cold November, around three o'clock in the morning. My husband was sleeping in our bed. I was hiding in the bathroom for something like the forty-seventh consecutive night, and—just as during all those nights before—I was sobbing. Sobbing so hard, in fact, that a great lake of tears and snot was spreading before me on the bathroom tiles, a veritable Lake Inferior (if you will) of all my shame and fear and confusion and grief.

I don't want to be married anymore.

I was trying so hard not to know this, but the truth kept insisting itself to me.

I don't want to be married anymore. I don't want to live in this big house. I don't want to have a baby.

But I was supposed to want to have a baby. I was thirty-one years old. My husband and I—who had been together for eight years, married for six—had built our entire life around the common expectation that, after passing the doddering old age of thirty, I would want to settle down and have children. By then, we mutually anticipated, I would have grown weary of traveling and would be happy to live in a big, busy household full of children and homemade quilts, with a garden in the backyard and a cozy stew bubbling on the stovetop. (The fact that this was a fairly accurate portrait of my own mother is a quick indicator of how difficult it once was for me to tell the difference between myself and the powerful woman who had raised me.) But I didn't—as I was appalled to be finding out—want any of these things. Instead, as my twenties had come to a close, that deadline of THIRTY had loomed over me like a death sentence, and I discovered that I did not want to be pregnant. I kept waiting to want to have a baby, but it didnt happen. And I know what it feels like to want something, believe me. I well know what desire feels like. But it wasn't there. Moreover, I couldn't stop thinking about what my sister had said to me once, as she was breast-feeding her firstborn: 'Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it's what you want before you commit.'

How could I turn back now, though? Everything was in place. This was supposed to be the year. In fact, we'd been trying to get pregnant for a few months already. But nothing had happened (aside from the fact that—in an almost sarcastic mockery of pregnancy—I was experiencing psychosomatic morning sickness, nervously throwing up my breakfast every day). And every month when I got my period I would find myself whispering furtively in the bathroom: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me one more month to live ...

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Table of Contents

Discussion Questions From the Publisher
1. Gilbert writes that "the appreciation of pleasure can be the anchor of humanity," making the argument that America is "an entertainment-seeking nation, not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one." Is this a fair assessment?

2. After imagining a petition to God for divorce, an exhausted Gilbert answers her phone to news that her husband has finally signed. During a moment of quietude before a Roman fountain, she opens her Louise Glück collection to a verse about a fountain, one reminiscent of the Balinese medicine man's drawing. After struggling to master a 182-verse daily prayer, she succeeds by focusing on her nephew, who suddenly is free from nightmares. Do these incidents of fortuitous timing signal fate? Cosmic unity? Coincidence?

3. Gilbert hashes out internal debates in a notebook, a place where she can argue with her inner demons and remind herself about the constancy of self-love. When an inner monologue becomes a literal conversation between a divided self, is this a sign of last resort or of self-reliance?

4. When Gilbert finally returns to Bali and seeks out the medicine man who foretold her return to study with him, he doesn't recognize her. Despite her despair, she persists in her attempts to spark his memory, eventually succeeding. How much of the success of Gilbert's journey do you attribute to persistence?

5. Prayer and meditation are both things that can be learned and, importantly, improved. In India, Gilbert learns a stoic, ascetic meditation technique. In Bali, she learns an approach based on smiling. Do you think the two can be synergistic? Or is Ketut Liyer right when he describes them as "same-same"?

6. Gender roles come up repeatedly in Eat, Pray, Love, be it macho Italian men eating cream puffs after a home team's soccer loss, or a young Indian's disdain for the marriage she will be expected to embark upon at age eighteen, or the Balinese healer's sly approach to male impotence in a society where women are assumed responsible for their childlessness. How relevant is Gilbert's gender?

7. In what ways is spiritual success similar to other forms of success? How is it different? Can they be so fundamentally different that they're not comparable?

8. Do you think people are more open to new experiences when they travel? And why?

9. Abstinence in Italy seems extreme, but necessary, for a woman who has repeatedly moved from one man's arms to another's. After all, it's only after Gilbert has found herself that she can share herself fully in love. What does this say about her earlier relationships?

10. Gilbert mentions her ease at making friends, regardless of where she is. At one point at the ashram, she realizes that she is too sociable and decides to embark on a period of silence, to become the Quiet Girl in the Back of the Temple. It is just after making this decision that she is assigned the role of ashram key hostess. What does this say about honing one's nature rather than trying to escape it? Do you think perceived faults can be transformed into strengths rather than merely repressed?

10. Sitting in an outdoor café in Rome, Gilbert's friend declares that every city-and every person-has a word. Rome's is "sex," the Vatican's "power"; Gilbert declares New York's to be "achieve," but only later stumbles upon her own word, antevasin, Sanskrit for "one who lives at the border." What is your word? Is it possible to choose a word that retains its truth for a lifetime?

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions From the Publisher
1. Gilbert writes that "the appreciation of pleasure can be the anchor of humanity," making the argument that America is "an entertainment-seeking nation, not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one." Is this a fair assessment?

2. After imagining a petition to God for divorce, an exhausted Gilbert answers her phone to news that her husband has finally signed. During a moment of quietude before a Roman fountain, she opens her Louise Glück collection to a verse about a fountain, one reminiscent of the Balinese medicine man's drawing. After struggling to master a 182-verse daily prayer, she succeeds by focusing on her nephew, who suddenly is free from nightmares. Do these incidents of fortuitous timing signal fate? Cosmic unity? Coincidence?

3. Gilbert hashes out internal debates in a notebook, a place where she can argue with her inner demons and remind herself about the constancy of self-love. When an inner monologue becomes a literal conversation between a divided self, is this a sign of last resort or of self-reliance?

4. When Gilbert finally returns to Bali and seeks out the medicine man who foretold her return to study with him, he doesn't recognize her. Despite her despair, she persists in her attempts to spark his memory, eventually succeeding. How much of the success of Gilbert's journey do you attribute to persistence?

5. Prayer and meditation are both things that can be learned and, importantly, improved. In India, Gilbert learns a stoic, ascetic meditation technique. In Bali, she learns an approach based on smiling. Do you think the two can be synergistic? Or is Ketut Liyer right when he describes them as "same-same"?

6. Gender roles come up repeatedly in Eat, Pray, Love, be it macho Italian men eating cream puffs after a home team's soccer loss, or a young Indian's disdain for the marriage she will be expected to embark upon at age eighteen, or the Balinese healer's sly approach to male impotence in a society where women are assumed responsible for their childlessness. How relevant is Gilbert's gender?

7. In what ways is spiritual success similar to other forms of success? How is it different? Can they be so fundamentally different that they're not comparable?

8. Do you think people are more open to new experiences when they travel? And why?

9. Abstinence in Italy seems extreme, but necessary, for a woman who has repeatedly moved from one man's arms to another's. After all, it's only after Gilbert has found herself that she can share herself fully in love. What does this say about her earlier relationships?

10. Gilbert mentions her ease at making friends, regardless of where she is. At one point at the ashram, she realizes that she is too sociable and decides to embark on a period of silence, to become the Quiet Girl in the Back of the Temple. It is just after making this decision that she is assigned the role of ashram key hostess. What does this say about honing one's nature rather than trying to escape it? Do you think perceived faults can be transformed into strengths rather than merely repressed?

10. Sitting in an outdoor café in Rome, Gilbert's friend declares that every city-and every person-has a word. Rome's is "sex," the Vatican's "power"; Gilbert declares New York's to be "achieve," but only later stumbles upon her own word, antevasin, Sanskrit for "one who lives at the border." What is your word? Is it possible to choose a word that retains its truth for a lifetime?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3352 )
Rating Distribution

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(1346)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 3383 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2010

    Waste of time

    This was the most irritating book I have come across in quite some time. I honestly fail to understand what all the fuss is about. The character is rich, self-absorbed, and narcissistic. Yeah she was suffering, my heart bleeds for someone who has the money to traipse all over the world to find herself finally lighting in paradise where she meets a rich handsome man. Give me a break, and take a reality check. It says much for our culture that the movie should be such a success, and that the book is a best seller. Honestly, the writing is not that great and the character .well what can I say? More New Age dribble and easy answers except that in this case she has the financial wherewithal to travel the world to find herself. Give us all a break.

    71 out of 98 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2007

    A reviewer

    A friend recomended this book to me after I had gone through divorce and then been diagnosed with cancer thinking I would find some wisdom within these pages. However, what I found was an incredibly narcissistic writer/character. I kept waiting for her to suddenly stop in the middle of it all and just declare how self absorbed she is and then begin a real and truly honest self examination that would impart some valuable wisdom. Instead, she uses cliche riddled writing to avoid all of the hard subjects and not really be honest with the reader. I can very much relate to her feelings of anxiety and stress as the result of her divorce, but she spends only a few pages on this and avoids providing the reader with any kind of an honest and real examination as to why her relationship failed, what she learned from it or what love means to her. After reading more about her as a writer she seems like a very talented and intellectually curious person, but none of that comes through in this book. All that the reader sees is someone who is very lucky, but doesn't really seem to appreciate it. When she writes that she was not saved by her prince -- surprise, surprise she meets a good looking, intelligent man at the end -- but that she saved herself, I had to ask, 'From what?' It certainly wasn't extraordinary narcisism. In the end, all I learned is that the author is a really lucky person.

    54 out of 68 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    From a therapist's viewpoint - Narcissistic and Shallow --

    Dang, I was expecting so much more from this book! I wanted to give the book NO STARS in this review, but the software wouldn't allow it. I have to settle for 1 STAR, but even that's too many. It seems that people either really, really LIKE THIS BOOK or that people really, really DISLIKE THIS BOOK. Count me in the latter category. But, I really used to like Elizabeth Gilbert's work. What happened...?

    "What a totally self-centered person," I thought as I struggled through the first half of the book. I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY tried to LIKE this book because I knew in the first 20 pages I would NEVER LOVE IT. I was expecting Ms. Gilbert to write more about cultures. I was wrong... It's all about ME...ME...ME rather than about cultural acceptance.

    Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could just pick up and leave friends and family and other responsibilities to travel the world and eat, have sex, eat some more, have sex some more, and--oh yes--investigate and ponder why God (or some intelligent being, if you like) made ME so special?!

    Many of my friends liked this book and said it spoke to them. Now, I have very wonderful and intelligent friends, but I can't seem to find or relate to the concepts they describe as being life-altering or life-clarifying. Perhaps it's just ME. Oh, no--I seem to have caught the ME-SYNDROME (officially known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder)that I so clearly despised in this book!

    I wouldn't recommend this book to my clients as a therapeutic approach or aid to their mid-life crisis angst. Instead, I'd encourage each of them to not waste money on this book; save up for a real cruise/trip with real people...

    ...and I can't remember the last time I used the word "really" as often as I did in this review or as many upper-case letters or exclamation points to show how I felt about a book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Cherie Renfrow Starry
    Private Practice Counselor/Therapist

    35 out of 45 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 2, 2009

    Tough times for a vapid, self-absorbed, socialite

    As a English professor at a university in San Diego, many of my students complain that I don't teach many "happy" books. A few of them recommended this book to me. And I'm glad they did...this is a troubling book.

    The most troubling thing about this vapid text isn't the fact that Gilbert is an annoying person; no, most troubling is the fact that so many people here are identifying with the narrator's "search." Really? You identify with an upitty, wealthy, New England divorcee who got paid to travel and "find" herself? From the faux-philosophical ruminations on "God," to the juvenile talk of Italian men ("I like kissing"--no joke--she really got paid to write that), Gilbert attempts to convince you that she's intellectual, spiritual, and--somehow--had a tough life.

    Gilbert tells us in the first chapter that she's not going to go into why her marriage broke apart (though she admits that much of it was her fault), but then details numerous faults with her husband (his biggest fault? He wanted her to have--gasp!--children!). The disingenuousness of Gilbert knows no limits! She tells us early on that she "got rid of all her possessions." How noble, right? Well, not really, she just put them into storage. How serendipitous!

    At all times, Gilbert's vapid self-centered "wanderer" takes center stage. Gilbert takes an entire sentence(!) to walk through a Roman neighborhood used as a Jewish Ghetto in WWII, and promptly discards that invitation to measure her own struggles against true adversity in favor of saying how she likes to visit the Pantheon.

    If you'd like to read a sincere look at personal struggle, please read Jhumpa Lahiri's "Unaccustomed Earth" or Louise Errich's "Plague of Doves."

    32 out of 38 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 10, 2010

    Contrived. But Still a Good Journey

    I really relate to this character, because I also went through a terrible divorce at a young age, and I really felt her pain. This is the deal---she completely planned this book before she even left on the trip, which is why she got a huge advance....and in that way, I feel duped as a reader. I want to believe it is a true journey. I bet she forgot everything she learned at the Ashram as soon as she left. I did not believe that truly transformed her. However, I did love (!) the detail about Rome, since I also lived there in college, and I think she nailed it. I could have guessed she would end up with a man in the end. It is a good book for our generation, but I would caution people not to drink the Kool-Aid.

    30 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2010

    Consider Another Way to Spend Your Reading Time

    This self-indulgent whine-fest is not worthy of your valuable reading time. The author wisely chooses to first take the reader to Italy, where no one is boring and nothing seems bad! The next two sections of this travelogue are just - pretentious meanderings. The writer has given us no reasons to care about her troubles or her actions or anything else about her. Being a confused, divorced female does not make one a good writer!

    25 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2010

    Absorbing and Inspiring

    I never wanted Liz's story to end! It made me want to experience each step of her journey and find myself. She writes with such honesty that the reader finds herself laughing out loud and at other times crying. A must-read for all women and a beautiful gift for all best friends.

    19 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Eat, Pray, and Love is a must read

    Has anyone ever asked themselves, "What am I doing with my life"? Of course you have. Everyone has. Elizabeth Gilbert took the time to make a book about literally getting out. Getting away from her friends, her family, her comfort zone in her hometown. She travels to three different countries to learn about the culture and eventually finds self fulfillment. This book is encouraging to those of us who refuse to settle for the norm. It helps motivate us to take life and live it to the fullest. She does just that in this book about love and finding ones self. I highly recommend it to anyone.

    18 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2007

    Don't waste your money!

    I was so disappointed after the first few chapters that I actually returned the book the next day. I found the author sadly and annoyingly self absorbed. But maybe I'm just one of those lucky women. Lets see I'm .......divorced(ex is an alcoholic), broke(putting two kids through college), overweight(even though I walk two miles every morning), sexless(seven years and counting), tired(work two jobs to pay the bills) oh and guess what......I'M HAPPY!!!!

    17 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2010

    a movie? really?

    She ate a lot and did some yoga. How on earth are they making a movie out of all that? I think this book MIGHT be good for someone going through a divorce, but personally, I wanted to pull eyelashes out one by one while reading this. I eat a lot, too. Maybe I should write about that. Who knows, maybe that will be turned into a movie too!

    16 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2007

    Too political

    Although I found this book to be beautifully written, the author's political inferences were just too tiresome for me. I stopped reading just before the end of the Italian segment. If she thinks republicans are so pathetic and is still harping on the fact that republicans 'stole' the presidential election, perhaps this republican would find her time better spent reading someone else's book. On to Whitethorn Woods for me.

    14 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2007

    Soooo lame!

    I work in a bookstore & I am a huge fan of Oprah. So, I was very excited to read this book after hearing so many customer's recommned it & after seeing the author on Oprah. Sadly, it was the biggest disappointment! I agree with the other reviewers...all she did was complain and feel bad for herself over everything!! She had no life experiences that were that bad...she needed this 'journey' because she didn't want to be married anymore? Please...give me a break! Who wouldn't want to take a year off from work & your problems and travel? Unless you are filthy stinking rich you will not relate to this book. Do not waste your time.

    12 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2010

    I considered this book inspiration-less.

    I've never been so disappointed and angered by a book. I thought it would have been about a women's journey into finding herself. Instead I'm reading about a neurotic women who commits adultry, uses people and then feels its necessary to promote her political views. I couldn't get past "Italy", which should have been all about pain, suffering and starting to gain control of her life. Instead, she demonstrates how selfish and uncaring she is about her friends and past relationships.

    10 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2010

    Simply Inspiring

    When I began reading this book I was living abroad in Amman, Jordan. So I could very much identify with the traveling aspects of the book as well as the spiritual journey. I was not planning to go on a spiritual journay while in Jordan but while living there with inescapable sounds of call to prayer from the five mosques within a one mile radius four times a day it seems almost inevitable that you would think about your spirituality. I had just begun meditating again and wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with my life after I returned to the US. I was a nanny for my brother's new baby boy and I had a lot of time on my hands to contemplate my life. When I found this book it was almost as if the planets had aligned at the perfect moment to send me the perfect gift for exactly what I was going through. Elizabeth Gilbert's journey not only helped to get my own journey in motion but helped along the way. It reawakened in me the need to tap into my own spirituality, something I too had been lacking for quite a few years. I think Gilbert's personal, ethnographic style of writing is very compelling and hard to put down once you start reading. Even if you are not exactly going through the same types of things, her ability to talk openly and humorously about her life helps to open those rooms inside all of our souls/minds that may have been closed or forgotten about. And if nothing else her writing is inspirational to get out there and make positive changes in your life or simply to get out and live. As I have entered a somewhat stagnant stage of life, I've decided to go back and reread this book for another healthy dose of inspiration and hopeful dose of personal enlightenment.

    Here is to you finding inspiration in her words....

    9 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Thoughtful and Inspiring

    As I started reading this book I was sure that Eat would be my favorite part of the book; then as I continued reading, Pray was equally satisfying. By the time I read Love and finished the book, I realized that the author wove a wonderful story with each section building on the others, just as in life. I found the book inspirational and took from it the fact that we each know what is best for us and we must all be our own guides through life.

    9 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2008

    A delicious, life changing book!

    This book, from the first couple of pages, is so compelling . . pulls you right in! Liz Gilbert has a rare gift, in my opinion, to reach the reader in a very personal way. It's one of those books that seems to have "something for everyone" - men and women alike.<BR/><BR/>I'm grateful for the brief chapters, because this is a books that I didn't want to be done with- I carry it with me everywhere and savor each chapter as a gift. It's funny because every time someone sees me reading it, it's always "Oh, don't you LOVE that book? It really spoke to me . . "<BR/><BR/>Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert- this book has made reading fun again, and offered me a spiritual guide without ever preaching to me. The humor and travel insights make it a well rounded read.

    9 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2010

    Terrible Horrible...and other various synonyms

    I could not get past the first couple pages...this book was that bad for me. I felt like she was trying too hard to be mystical, spiritual...I couldn't stop rolling my eyes and I was afraid it was going to become permanent.

    8 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2007

    Painful

    Although I loved the first few chapters regarding her trip to Italy, and the descriptions of the food, etc., when she proceeded to India and Indonesia and got engulfed in meditation, she completely lost me. I found myself skipping those parts and hoping to find the good, to no avail. It was painfully boring and probably because I am not able to get all the hype about meditation. We actually took it off our book club list for fear we would lose the rest of the group.

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 28, 2010

    Disappointing

    I first heard about this book through the relentless promotion circulating the media. I must admit that i was curious but decided to fight the urge to read it for a while. After watching the commercials with Julia Roberts for the upcoming movie over and over again I bought the book. Yes, I admit I am one of those people who become mesmerized by commercials and believe anything they tell me. It was downhill from the moment i read the first five pages. I can't even finish the book. The main character goes on a journey to find herself and from my perspective all she has found is a big pile of complaints about her life, I didnt feel she was learning anything from her experiences. The fact that i have not finished the book says alot.

    7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I say "nay"

    Honestly, I read about 30 pages and I couldn't go on. It started off boring and just didn't pick up for me. All the talk about eating and eating only made me hungry! It was missing excitement....at least that's what I'd be working on if I was in the main character's shoes. I'm hoping the movie will bring that for me.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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