Blurb from Goodreads:
In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want–husband, country home, successful career–but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.
My rating: 3/5 Stars – It had its moments, but I had some significant problems with it.
As I listened to this book, my feelings alternated between pure enjoyment and total apathy.
The beginning drew me in with its raw emotion, making me sympathize deeply with Gilbert. I even teared up a couple of times. Though I can’t say that I have first-hand experience with torrid love affairs and divorce, Gilbert’s descriptions of her passionate, dysfunctional romance with David as well as the heartbreaking collapse and painful fallout from her marriage struck me as unerringly honest and realistic. I felt like I completely understood what she was going through, and that made me root for her to find happiness.
As the book went on, I found myself enjoying Gilbert’s humorous, insightful anecdotes. But there were also times when I simply couldn’t bring myself to care about whatever she was talking about. I didn’t care that Gilbert grew up on a farm; I didn’t care about how much she wanted to get laid in Italy; I didn’t even really care about her spiritual journey. Regarding this last bit, it seemed to me that Gilbert had already made up her mind about God before she went on this quest to find Him. While she did have increasingly personal encounters with the divine, her ideas about God didn’t develop all that much, making that aspect of the book somewhat anti-climactic. However, it was very interesting to learn more about the practice of yoga and the spiritual teachings of Hinduism.
As I said before, I do sympathize with Gilbert and I feel like I can relate to her on several levels. But those sentiments are tempered by the negative impression she gives at certain points in the book. At times she comes off like a total flake and – to be frank – a bit of a nut job. I feel guilty for judging her like this, but if I’m being honest, I must acknowledge that my dislike of Gilbert’s personality did have a detrimental effect on my listening experience.
As far as the audiobook goes, I really love that it’s narrated by Gilbert herself. It adds emotion and realism to the story. Also, in the section about Italy, I think that being able to hear the Italian language being spoken provided a much richer experience than I would have gotten out of reading it. This is a good book to listen to if you’re an audiobook person.
Overall, I really enjoyed large portions of the book, and I can see why so many people love it, yet I can’t say that it’s profound, life-changing, or one of the best books I’ve ever read. Although Eat, Pray, Love is fun, mildly thought-provoking, and kept me hooked with moments of deep emotion and beautifully poetic language, it also has some fairly significant flaws that are probably going to be deal-breakers for a lot of readers. Ultimately, all I can say is this: reading (or listening to) this type of book is such a subjective experience that the only way to know if you’ll love it or hate it is to give it a try.