Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, October 23, 2018

'Eat, Pray, Love' inspires readers to find themselves

Review: Eat, Pray, Love - A

A 30-something divorcée sells her house, packs up her life and sets off for Italy to "find herself." This isn't a new concept. We've seen it in countless books, such as Frances Mayes' "Under the Tuscan Sun," or a similar male version in Peter Mayle's "A Good Year." However, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love," gives this classic story a refreshing and heartfelt twist.

As Gilbert depicts her yearlong journey, a result of her failed marriage, she paints a picture of whirlwind romance and suicidal tendencies. She allows the reader to experience a sort of transcendence from the comfort of his or her own home. Her voyage of growth and defiance begins in Rome with her search for the perfect meal, makes a meditative pit stop in India and ends in the island paradise of Bali. While Gilbert details her hunt for many things throughout her travels, the most important would be the search for herself.

Gilbert, a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award finalist, constructs a picture so bold and beautiful the reader can't help but wish that they, too, had the courage to "step out of the box" and experience the unfamiliar. How many of us can honestly say we have never had the desire to drop everything and start a new life somewhere else to truly become a new person, while still managing to "stay true to thy self?" This may seem like an impossible feat, but somehow Gilbert pulls it off. It is through her fear - fear of marriage, commitment, loneliness and herself - that Gilbert learns to live the unexamined life. It is not until Gilbert basically says "screw it and everyone else" that she is able to truly find herself.

The encounters Gilbert has with her Italian tutor, Luca, or the loud Texan she meets in a small Ashram in India, allow for a warm and welcoming feeling. She weaves her story into a colorful, thought-provoking and sincere tale of one woman who drags herself up off of the bathroom floor and travels around the world to pick up the pieces of a life she never planned on living. Gilbert's writing even allows her "selfish" journey to seem like an act of service to others.

"Going off for a year and creating a journey to pull myself back together, to rediscover joy, to face down my failings and rebuild my existence, was not only an important thing for my life, but ultimately for the lives of everyone around me," she writes.

"Eat, Pray, Love," called one of the 100 most notable books of 2006 by The New York Times and one of the 10 best nonfiction books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, pulls at the heartstrings in a manner in which few nonfiction feats are able to do successfully and convincingly. There are virtually no moments when the reader feels like they are watching a chick flick or wallowing in self-pity. While there is plenty of wallowing and self-pity, Gilbert portrays her sorrows, failure and successes in a perfectly well-rounded way that makes her account believable, as well as poignant.

Gilbert will make readers laugh at the ridiculousness that is an Italian football game, weep in awe at the beauty that is true devotion and allow readers to overcome their contentment at the mere thought of learning that, to love someone else, you must first know and love yourself.

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