Eat, Pray, Love. Three words can change the course of your life: Eat, Pray, Love. Specifically, Eat, Pray, Eat. If you were writing this book 30 years ago, and were struggling to sort out your own existence, or if you had just lost someone dear to you, then you might also have swallowed the spiritual rabbit hole that Gilbert follows in the first part of her impressive memoir: traveling to Bali. But even now, the journey she recounts, captured in prose that is simultaneously elegant and plain, will inspire you to take notice of how little most people care about themselves, let alone their bodies, or what others think of them.
The first part of Eat, Pray, Love takes place in Venice, Italy. Through the character of Lucille Clifton, the American who is seeking to reestablish her sense of self through a trip to Italy, Gilbert, a self-proclaimed travel writer, uses a behind-the-scenes perspective to depict the extreme reaction you might expect to the most mundane experience.
Though the book is at times absurd and often impossible to follow, Gilbert is kind enough to let the reader take it all in, every step of the way, using an author’s dream, and sometimes cringe-worthy, language. Her passion for travel comes out in a gusto unlike any other guidebook I’ve ever read. I didn’t even care for “Over a Thousand Cold Juices” or the book’s “Tangramel,” a system of math (“Roman morelayry—stinky gourd—tarot card your eyes”), which was placed into the text to demonstrate Gilbert’s skepticism. “Nonsense!” she angrily retorts in her confessional, writing, “Part of my idea of translation is that a foreign word should mean something the original was saying.”
At moments, Gilbert shows a condescending attitude about the food-loving Italians; at other times, she gives no sympathy to their intense attachment to dieting. In Bali, Gilbert finds herself on an adventure of self-discovery, and she makes use of every recipe in the book.
Gilbert has a sense of humor, and the repetition of her food-advice techniques is pure escapism. You feel like you are on a better, better path by the time you arrive in Bali. And in a concluding chapter in which she reflects on what she has learned, an admission surfaces that if she’d truly listened to her husband in Venice, maybe she could have gotten it all done faster. “Where’s my commitment, my passion, my strength,” she laments, her voice cracking, “and it’s not about marriage. I just, I don’t have it.”
Eat, Pray, Love offers at once an easy read, a trip down memory lane, and a call to action for those facing difficult, uncomfortable journeys. To paraphrase one of Gilbert’s recipes, this book is for those times when you fall hopelessly in love with yourself, but need some help.
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