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Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesiaby Elizabeth Gilbert
Synopses & Reviews
A celebrated writer's irresistible, candid, and eloquent account of her pursuit of worldly pleasure, spiritual devotion, and what she really wanted out of life.
Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned thirty, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. She had everything an educated, ambitious American woman was supposed to want — a husband, a house, a successful career. But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief, and confusion. She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love, and the eradication of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be.
To recover from all this, Gilbert took a radical step. In order to give herself the time and space to find out who she really was and what she really wanted, she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, and undertook a yearlong journey around the world — all alone. Eat, Pray, Love is the absorbing chronicle of that year. Her aim was to visit three places where she could examine one aspect of her own nature set against the backdrop of a culture that has traditionally done that one thing very well. In Rome, she studied the art of pleasure, learning to speak Italian and gaining the twenty-three happiest pounds of her life. India was for the art of devotion, and with the help of a native guru and a surprisingly wise cowboy from Texas, she embarked on four uninterrupted months of spiritual exploration. In Bali, she studied the art of balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. She became the pupil of an elderly medicine man and also fell in love the best way — unexpectedly.
An intensely articulate and moving memoir of self-discovery, Eat, Pray, Love is about what can happen when you claim responsibility for your own contentment and stop trying to live in imitation of society's ideals. It is certain to touch anyone who has ever woken up to the unrelenting need for change.
"Gilbert (The Last American Man) grafts the structure of romantic fiction upon the inquiries of reporting in this sprawling yet methodical travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery. Plagued with despair after a nasty divorce, the author, in her early 30s, divides a year equally among three dissimilar countries, exploring her competing urges for earthly delights and divine transcendence. First, pleasure: savoring Italy's buffet of delights — the world's best pizza, free-flowing wine and dashing conversation partners — Gilbert consumes la dolce vita as spiritual succor. "I came to Italy pinched and thin," she writes, but soon fills out in waist and soul. Then, prayer and ascetic rigor: seeking communion with the divine at a sacred ashram in India, Gilbert emulates the ways of yogis in grueling hours of meditation, struggling to still her churning mind. Finally, a balancing act in Bali, where Gilbert tries for equipoise "betwixt and between" realms, studies with a merry medicine man and plunges into a charged love affair. Sustaining a chatty, conspiratorial tone, Gilbert fully engages readers in the year's cultural and emotional tapestry — conveying rapture with infectious brio, recalling anguish with touching candor — as she details her exotic tableau with history, anecdote and impression." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The only thing wrong with this readable, funny memoir of a magazine writer's yearlong travels across the world in search of pleasure and balance is that it seems so much like a Jennifer Aniston movie.
Like Jen, Liz is a plucky blond American woman in her thirties with no children and no major money worries. As the book opens, she is going through a really bad divorce and subsequent stormy... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) rebound love affair. Awash in tears in the middle of the night on the floor of the bathroom, she begins to pray for guidance, 'you know — like, to (BEG ITAL)God.'(END ITAL) God answers. He tells her to go back to bed.
I started seeing the Star headlines: 'Jen's New Faith!' 'What Really Happened at the Ashram!' 'Jen's Brazilian Sugar Daddy — Exclusive Photos!'
Please understand that Gilbert, whose earlier nonfiction book, 'The Last American Man,' portrayed a contemporary frontiersman, is serious about her quest. But because she never leaves her self-deprecating humor at home, her journey out of depression and toward belief lacks a certain gravitas. The book is composed of 108 short chapters (based on the beads in a traditional Indian (BEG ITAL)japa mala(END ITAL) prayer necklace) that often come across as scenes in a movie. And however sad she feels or however deeply she experiences something, she can't seem to avoid dressing up her feelings in prose that can get too cute and too trite. On the other hand, she convinced me that she acquired more wisdom than most young American seekers — and did it without peyote buttons or other classic hippie medicines.
When Gilbert determines that she requires a year of healing, her first stop is Italy, because she feels she needs to immerse herself in a language and culture that worships pleasure and beauty. This sets the stage for a 'Jen's Romp in Rome,' where she studies Italian and, with newfound friends, searches for the best pizza in the world. It's a considerable achievement because she is still stalked by Depression and Loneliness, which she casts as 'Pinkerton Detectives' — Depression, the wise guy, and Loneliness, 'the more sensitive cop.' They frisk her, 'empty my pockets of any joy I had been carrying' and relentlessly interrogate her about why she thinks she deserves a vacation, considering what a mess she's made of her life.
After literally eating herself out of depression, she returns to the United States for Christmas holidays. Next stop: the ashram. It seems Gilbert has been a student of yoga and meditation for years.
Her rural Indian experience features Gilbert grappling mightily with some of the meditative practices. She finds quirky co-practitioners such as Richard from Texas, a former truck driver, alcoholic and Birkenstock dealer. Richard nicknames her 'Groceries' because of her appetite at meals and offers wise advice. Picture Willie Nelson in a non-singing cameo role.
Gilbert acknowledges that Americans have had difficulty accepting the idea of meditation and gurus, and she does a mostly fine job in making her ashram education accessible. She deftly sketches the physical stress of sitting in one position for hours, as well as the metaphysical stress of staying on message. Still, Gilbert sounds like a giddy teenager as she describes her relationship with Swamiji, the yogi who founded the ashram where she is studying: 'I'm finding that all I want is Swamiji. All I feel is Swamiji. ... It's the Swamiji channel, round the clock.'
The concluding 36 beads find Gilbert in Bali, palling around with an ageless medicine man who looks like Yoda, a Balinese mother and nurse, Wayan, who is a refugee from domestic violence, and other colorful characters. Gilbert is healed enough by now to render a really good deed: She raises $18,000 via e-mail from American friends for Wayan to buy a house. ('Jen: Bigger Do-Gooder Than Brad?') And after 18 months of self-imposed celibacy, she finds mature, truer love thanks to a charming older Brazilian businessman.
'Eat, Pray, Love' as a whole actually is better than its 108 beads. By the time she and her lover sailed into a Bali sunset, Gilbert had won me over. She's a gutsy gal, this Liz, flaunting her psychic wounds and her search for faith in a pop-culture world, and her openness ultimately rises above its glib moments. Memo to Jen — option this book.
Grace Lichtenstein is a travel writer and author of six books who lives in New York and Santa Fe, N.M."
Reviewed by Grace Lichtenstein, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"Gilbert's sensuous and audacious spiritual odyssey is as deeply pleasurable as it is enlightening." Booklist (Starred Review)
"This insightful, funny account of [Gilbert's] travels reads like a mix of Susan Orlean and Frances Mayes.... Gilbert's journey is well worth taking. Grade: A." Entertainment Weekly
"A probing, thoughtful title with a free and easy style, this work seamlessly blends history and travel for a very enjoyable read. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Gilbert's divorce and subsequent depression...are in fact more interesting than her year of travel. The author's writing is prosaic, sometimes embarrassingly so....Lacks the sparkle of her fiction." Kirkus Reviews
"Eat, Pray, Love is in fact a meditation on love in its many forms: love of food, language, humanity, God and, most meaningful for Gilbert, love of self." Los Angeles Times
"No, I'm not going to spoil the ending, which is fantastic. All I can say is that it is a storybook ending. Let's just hope it's true." San Francisco Chronicle
"This deeply personal story is fun and inspiring. Join Gilbert as she eats, prays and loves. You will laugh, cry and love with a more open heart." Rocky Mountain News
A celebrated writer pens an irresistible, candid, and eloquent account of her pursuit of worldly pleasure, spiritual devotion, and what she really wanted out of life.
A glorious, sweeping novel of desire, ambition, and the thirst for knowledge, from the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed
In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henrys brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her fathers money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Almas research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.
Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilberts wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.
For the millions of people—especially women—who fight the fat talk in their heads, her words will be familiar and comforting.” —Associated Press
In the opening pages of her memoir, Cyndi Lee shares a surprising revelation. Despite her success as a dancer, choreographer, and yoga teacher, she was caught in a lifelong cycle of self-judgment about her body. Inspired by her students, Lee embarked on a journey of self-discovery—around the globe and within herself—and sought the counsel of knowing women, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Dr. Christiane Northrup, and Louise Hay. Applying the ancient Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation, Lee comes to learn that compassion is the only antidote to hate. By becoming her own best student, Lee internalizes the strength, stability, and clarity she seeks to impart.
About the Author
Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of a short story collection, Pilgrims — a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and winner of the 1999 John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares — and a novel, Stern Men. A Pushcart Prize winner and National Magazine Award-nominated journalist, she works as writer-at-large for GQ. Her journalism has been published in Harper's Bazaar, Spin, and the New York Times Magazine, and her stories have appeared in Esquire, Story, and the Paris Review.
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