Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year or so (and you live in the US) you must have heard of Elizabeth Gilbert's Oprah-certified memoir Eat, Pray, Love. You had to have seen that attractive cover peering out at you from the bestseller shelves at Barnes and Noble. Or Borders. Or Target. Anyhow, this is the book I wasn't planning on reading, too much hype and all that. But as these things tend to go, it was chosen for this months book club selection and so here we are.
For those who have just climbed out from under a rock, a short synopsis: unhappily married Gilbert falls apart on bathroom floor, proceeds to file for divorce and begins another unhealthy relationship with an attractive man. Said relationship is not working out so Gilbert receives large book advance to travel and find herself and God. Oh, and a new man. There's that.
Does it sound as though I disliked this book? I did in parts, but not altogether. I was happily surprised to find this book fairly readable and quite humorous. Gilbert is a good writer with a conversational style that drew me in and I enjoyed the first section of the book which details Gilbert's relationship woes and her travels in Italy. Then we moved on to India. Hmmm. Gilbert spends 4 months essentially meditating in an Ashram. She notices the native women hauling rocks on the side of the road and thinks (and I paraphrase here) 'Huh. That must be a hard life.' And continues to meditate. It just all felt so out of touch and reinforced the thoughts going through my mind about how self-absorbed the author is. At one point Gilbert decides she's been talking too much, so she's going to be "The Quiet Girl." And everyone is going to look at this mysterious girl and think "Who is that Quiet Girl?" All I can think is that you're spending a little too much time thinking about yourself and how you can manipulate how other people see you. I'm thinking if I wanted to improve myself and my 'karma' in the world my time would be better spent doing some volunteer work in India. Just an idea. It was during this portion of the book that my eardrum ruptured. I had to take a few weeks away from it. Somehow being half deaf, unable to go out in public or read to my daughter due to ear pain decreased my tolerance.
In the third and final section of EPL Gilbert travels to Bali. She is brave, not having any official plans, and heads off to visit a medicine man she met several years earlier. They spend time together talking and learning from one another. Gilbert makes a life for herself, taking a house and getting to know people. She meets a man and begins a friendship with him. It is apparent that he wants more, but Gilbert thinks she is not ready....but then she is. And the cycle is completed. Apparently Gilbert's next book is about her marriage to this man.
I've read that in order to like or even love this book one has to really like Gilbert and her personality. I just didn't identify with her in any way. Most people I know are too busy working, taking care of family and just life to spend so much time thinking about themselves. I didn't like the overly cutesy way she had of describing herself - again I paraphrase - I'm such a cute blond - I've never been without a man - I make friends so easily. Or some of the 'clever' jokes she made - at the beginning of chapter 74 Gilbert makes a comment about landing in the middle of the Sudan with no idea what to do next. Considering the situation in Darfur I felt this was a poorly timed remark.
I just don't 'get' all the hype about this book. I truly don't understand why so many people have been drawn to this book, and what's more, why they come away feeling it's changed their life or is the best book they've ever read. I'm hoping someone in my book club meeting tomorrow night loved it and can explain this to me.
I'm curious to know - did you read this and how did you feel about it? And in particular - if you are not from the US, is this a popular book where you live? Just wondering.