I briefly referenced Elizabeth Gilbert in an earlier blog post, but didn’t go into the details of her journey in newly released Eat, Pray, Love.
Her book is exactly that: a journey of an American woman in her early thirties post-divorce. What bothered me about the first third of the book was how narcissistic and juvenile it felt both in her emotional development and in the quality of her writing.
Given the glowing praise from all the editorial greats, it made me feel as if I shouldn’t have this reaction if her writing was worthy of such global literary acclaim.
A really great writer can integrate themselves into a novel and yet make the reader relate, resonate, feel, move, inspire. About a third way through, I accept that it is her dialogue, that it is her diary, that it is about one woman’s journey, but no one else.
Occasionally we are blessed with the gift of someone she loved or met along the way, but only in snippets and you find yourself wanting more of them. I, like others I know who read the book, longed for more character development of those she wove into the story.
The drama around a successful couple’s New York divorce was far too accentuated for anyone who has either been to the bottom and back again, or lived a more trying life. I’m now re-reading Unbearable Lightness of Being and Elizabeth at 35 versus Kundera’s Sabina is a tough comparison.
That said, it is a modern drama. Sex in the City meets the third world, but its one character alone, out on a limb, trying to survive, learn a lesson or two and find God along the way.
She is amusing at times and aroused a chuckle in me more than once. Her post-western divorce escape began in Italy (to discover all things pleasurable), then led her to India (for all things spiritual) and then finally to Indonesia (Bali in particular, to learn about balancing the two).
All of it was very familiar to me since I’ve spent a chunk of time in all three places. Hence, I very much resonated with her recap on the people, culture and what each ultimately stand for.
Her dialogue (to us, not with us) while in Italy read more like a college student’s diary, yet she expands beyond herself for the first time when she reaches an Indian ashram. How can you not? Here, alone on a hill, she makes peace with her ex-husband, learns about patience and gratitude through meditation, yoga and God. God, meaning a spiritual connection to the holiest of Gods, one beyond structured religion itself: the best kind.
She writes, "Your treasure — your perfection — is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart." Hear hear.
Later, before she finally leaves India for her final destination to resurrect her past misfit living, we read about the infinite. "But doesn’t that make sense? That the infinite would be, indeed, infinite? That even the most holy amongst us would only be able to see scattered pieces of the eternal picture at any given time? And that maybe if we could collect those pieces and compare them, a story about God would begin to emerge that resembles and includes everyone? And isn’t our individual longing for transcendance all just part of this larger human search for divinity?"
This part is obviously beautifully written and there are snippets of beautiful threads throughout, so while I don’t think it deserves the kind of acclaim it received, I found it a ‘fun’ read.
And while I applaud her for sticking it out on the ashram and digging deeper for spiritual truth, I was disappointed that she didn’t focus on her spiritual growth for longer before diving back into a relationship.
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