Eat, love, pray



At the start of February I started ready the hyped book "Eat, Love, Pray" written by Elisabeth Gilbert after I had heard so many positive reactions to the book from so many different people.

So I started in the beginning of February with a lot of anticpation and excitement and I've finished the book last Wednesday Feb 25th.
For comparison: in January I've finished 5 books (which was unusually high since I was home on sickleave for a while) and since Feb 25th I've already finished another book as well with more than 400 pages (also a big quicker than usual as I had a lot of time on the Eurostar to read last weekend). Still : it took me 25 days to read it and that basically says it all: the book gave me no urge at all to pick it up the next day for further reading. I've finished it because of determination to finish it.

Elisabeth and I just didn't hit off on the right track from the beginning. I started reading her story about crashing in the bathroom floor wanting to step out her wedding for no reason she can define in the book but she fills multiple pages about it anyway. She describes finding communication with God via prayer, via a scratch book in which she writes answers to herself form God, via a ashram in New York,... Hmm if any of those methods is satisfactory, why continue looking for new methods? I can only think "gosh can you stop whining, get some grip, find one method to help yourself and stick to it and be content with what you have". The entire start is one big bundle of complaints and self-pity and I don't feel like reading such stuff in my free time.

I'm not saying that I can't understand how unhappy one can feel in a marriage, how confusing and irrational relationships and all the linked emotions can be (it truly can make you a wreck), how things need time to heal and settle, ....And writing it off can be very very therapeutic. But it's hard enough to deal with your own confusions and frustrations and fears, it's hard enough to be there when friends need you and listen to their story. So I do not wish to read this type of stuff from someone unknown unless I learn from it, unless it's entertaining, unless it's insightfull. I found it neither.

So our protagonist decides she needs to take some distance from it all but she cannot decide whether she wants to go to Italy (to enjoy the language and the food), to India (to visit her guru's ashram) or to Bali (to visit a traditional medicineman she met before)....so she decides to do all of that.

Her Italy trip proofs to be as superficial as food and language promised to be: she talks about newly met friends but her friends stay unidimensial in the story and I hardly learn anything new about the Italian culture. Language courses are given up as they would keep her from enjoying food and conversations too much, .... All of this is mixed with endless thoughts whether she can live without a relationship or not and whether she can give up her last American affaire for good. Hmm weird I thought she had broken up a hundred times already but a final letter seems to set the deal. Pheww.

Her India trip is the total opposite from Italy: sober diners and hours of meditation. At first I totally recognise her struggles to concentrate during meditation and all the (funny?) mind tricks we struggle with when our thoughts jump around like grasshoppers in our head . But one chapter about physical problems to sit still in meditation, one about concentration problems, one about some mantra which she first hates and then loves.......Zzzzzzzzzz, sorry too much of the same. And I am way to rational to deal with her nice little story where she reunites with the spirit of her ex-husband to reconcile with her spirit on the roof of the building. Personally I love yoga to become calm and relax and to clear my thoughts but I do not feel a need to reach some higher extasis united with the rest of the universe. Since she doesn't leave the ashram in those 4 months we learn nothing about India and the Indian culture.

Her Bali trip was the part of the book I enjoyed most. She finally seems to focus a little less on herself and all her struggles and pains and starts to show interest in the local habits, culture & rituals, describes more encounters with new friends, landscapes, etc...Since we will go on vacation to Bali over a couple of months that was rather cool. But I wasn't interested to read all her dilemma's whether she'd give up her goal to abstain from sex for a year or not when she meets a hot new lover. And she gives up her promises to keep the medicine man company and to teach him English as soon as she finds some new friends that are clearly more interesting to her.

I found this book very tiring with a very egocentric undecisive whimsical protagonist who seems to want everything at the same time (no lover or multiple lovers, one destination or many destinations, many meditation techniques, food indulgance versus sober life, ....) and who seems to struggle forever to be at peace with her life and to stay satisfied. By the end of the book she seems to have evolved into someone who has after all found that peace....but somehow I doubt seriously that it'll last. Isn't she going to fall back in all the same traps when she goes back to her old life in NY. It's fun to escape from your problems by travelling the world but we don't learn how she'll tackle her return to reality.

In all honesty I must admit that I would have been much less frustrated with the book if I had not first read all the positive comments and had set my hopes up so high. I guess I struggled with the fact that my expectations weren't met. If I would have never heard of the book before, I probably would have read it and put it aside with the thought "oh well, glad that it's finished, it was ok but nothing more". I kept wondering where the humor was that people referred to, I kept wondering how this book could have changed people's lives. It didn't change mine.

Comments

Jenn said…
I did really enjoy the book. What I took from it was the need to put yourself first. And I loved the travel aspect of it as well.

But I do totally get what you are saying. I don't like it when people complain about their lives without changing it.

Jenn
Lilacspecs said…
I've never had much of a desire ot read this book. Unfortunately, most "finding yourself" books written about American women, in my opinion, are lame and egocentric and selfish and cheesy.
I had no love for Under the Tuscan Sun either. I think a lot fo women in the US come from histories and backgrounds that are much more repressed and unequal than a lot of the women in Western Europe so the definition of finding meaning for ones life is entirely different and in my opinion, somewhat skewed.
anno said…
I found her humorous in a self-deprecating kind of way, and I enjoyed her narrative style; that kept me going. But, then, I like lots of reflection in my books.

Could have used more, in fact. For me, it would have helped resolve that tension you describe between the person she was at the beginning and the person she becomes at the end; might have explained how she was going to stay that way.
R. Duckie said…
I read it too.. I enjoyed some of the stories, but didn't feel too sorry for her - seems like she had some typical rich -girl problems.
TorAa said…
Fascinating comments to a book I have not read.
The main point is, if I have understand you correctly:
Searching for myself, if I do not find an answere through my voyages, the supernatural is the only answer: GOD.
A great and conveniant solution for the single person, but for the mass?
History should have teached us otherwise.
But who have had the opportunity to have been told history uncencored?
Snooker said…
Thanks for the review. I think you've saved me some time and money.