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Review: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I wanted to start this review out with a disclaimer: this review will be biased on my personal experience. But then I thought to myself, what really is an objective review anyway? We read from a perspective of our own head, and we cannot escape it, to imagine experiencing the words from a perspective that is not our own. So all reviews, in my opinion, must be subjective by nature because reading is subjective.

So begins my subjective review.

Eat, Pray, Love came into my life at a perfect time. I had seen the movie a long time ago when I was much younger and mostly because Julia Roberts was in it (so not for any meaningful purpose except for fandom). Coming back to the book at this point in my life, probably at least a decade later, felt like a good way to refresh my memory about the movie and to figure out why I liked the movie when I was younger. But this book came to me at the perfect time, someone who had gone on a very long journey, following her heart, but who, after the initial plunge, figured out she had no idea what she was doing, what she had gotten herself into, and what she had given up. Because of these circumstances, this book spoke to me and told me things I had longed to hear, but never knew how to articulate. I loved a few passages from this book for many reasons (and I will share them below after the general review). I shall begin my review with a discussion about how the book was structure/written, then talk about the characters, the themes, and then share my favourite quote(s)/passage(s).

The actual thought put into the writing structure was refreshing. From the beginning there is a clear intention as well as structure. The book is structured into three main parts which correspond to her trips to Italy, India, and Indonesia. In each part there are 36 tales, small vignette parts. I appreciate these parts because they feel like small stories, but also make breaking up the reading easier. It is hard to read books that have very few chapter breaks/any breaks at all (for me I try to end my reading sessions at these breaks). Having many breaks allows for the possibility of many stopping points, but also makes it slightly addicting: just one more tiny chapter before bed (with the knowledge that the tales (as the author calls it) are short in length).

The main character is Liz, she takes us along on her journey from New York all the way to Bali. We are given insights into her own mind and thoughts in a refreshing manner. This perspective allows the readers to ‘get into her head’ and to witness the transformation she makes. I felt I got to know Liz and her personality sprung off the page easily. It felt very much like she was speaking to me and personal, like journal entries. As readers, we are privileged to her innermost thoughts and fears. We never have to leave her own head and we view the world through her own eyes. I think this is a benefit. I feel that this position allows the readers to witness her healing and transformation. It is a memoir, and what would a memoir be without this perspective?

There are many themes and ideas touched upon in this novel. Personal growth and forgiveness is one of them. Another is spiritual growth and self love. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone, especially those who are occupy a similar position of needing some self love, feeling lost, and wanting to be happy. I think that self discovery is the main theme. Liz takes this on in a variety of ways: spiritually, self acceptance, and self love.

My favourite parts of the novel Spoilers ahead are as follows:

My favourite parts from Italy:

-Tale 16 when Liz talks about her inner demons of Depression and Loneliness and how they physically manifest themselves in her life. I had never read a physical manifestation of these feelings, but as soon as I read it, I thought “Yes. This makes sense!” because that is what it feels like. When you have these demons for so long and they haunt you, they become characters themselves with their own personalities.

-Her discussion about women who do not want children was particularly interesting to me as it directly induces memories of discussions in class about the stigma attached to women who do not want children. Particularly when Liz says “You’ll need to find another purpose, another measure by which to judge whether or not you have been a successful human being” (Gilbert, 95).

-Her search for her own word. In her trip in Italy, she has a conversation about what word best represents a city. For Rome that word would be sex and for New York it would be achieve (Tale 33). Liz is asked what her own word is (which she does not find until she is in India: antevasin (one who lives at the border) from Tale 69. It made me ask myself, what is your word? I have absolutely no answer to that question, although I have thought very hard about it since that question.

-“I exist more now” (116) when Liz is observing that she has put on weight. She reflects that her physical state mirrors her internal state.

My favourite parts from India (which was my favourite part since I am on my own journey towards self love):

-Liz’s discussion and affirmation of her personal mind harbour in Tale 58. I love it so much that I want to type it out, make it big, and have it framed. The passage is so funny, but so beautiful and I want to read it every morning to remind myself to protect myself with the fierce devotion I show to my loved ones.

-I realize I do not have many quotes or specific passages from this part of the novel, yet it is by far my favourite. In this part Liz really goes on her spiritual journey and talks about that process in a way that is both interesting and inspirational to me. This is why it is my favourite even though I cannot point to a specific sentence.

My favourite parts of Indonesia:

-“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort” (260). Because I often think of happiness as a state, and one mostly of circumstance (if I have had a good day, or if I went on a walk, but not about things I have much control over). Yet it is.

-Her acceptance of Wayan. I would have personally felt very betrayed over the ‘games’, but what Felippe said about the way it is and acceptance personally reminded me to try to be more accepting and patient about everyone’s limits and personalities. It also reminded me about how privileged I am.

-Also Felippe is pretty cool, and totally opposite of my personality, which might be why he is so darn cool.

To bring this to a close, who is this book for? I think this book is for anyone who is uncertain, lost, critical of oneself, and needing a reminder that self discovery and love is a process, but one that is of supreme importance.

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