Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love… Enjoy

This is not a book review. It might seem like one, but it’s not. It can’t be. Because I think Eat, Pray, Love is actually one of the few—if not first—books I have read this year for the sole intention of enjoyment. Oh sure, I have read and enjoyed a few dozen books in the months that have made up 2010 thus far. Yet without digging too deep into my memory, I can pretty much attest that all of them have been for a specific purpose… like reviewing. Or for a workshop. Or in preparation for interviewing someone.

So it was with great pleasure that I finally had a book in my hands to read and simply enjoy for the sake of enjoyment. Yet here I am. Writing about it.

My to-be-read pile is ridiculous and embarrassing. Knowing I was going to spend a few weeks on the road, traveling to and from AWP in Denver, I wanted to take something with me that was light, pleasant, soft on my brain. Wait. I don’t mean to imply that Gilbert’s book is fluffy. In contrast, it has some serious moments, dark points, and certainly a few (gentle) finger-pointing questions a reader will inevitably ask herself, as she journeys along with the author on a one-year course of self-discovery and enlightenment. A book can be both light and enlightening, I do think, and this is one example that works. Or, at least, worked for me.

It has not worked for everyone. Unless you have been living under a rock protecting yourself from ‘the news’ (aka – book reviews), you will likely have heard about or read for yourself a non-praising review of Gilbert’s work. I don’t care about those reviews. In fact, I generally am more inclined to pick up a book because a reviewer cares little for the author’s self-indulgence, as I can make up my own mind about such things. Plus, we’re talking about someone’s life here. Someone’s personal discovery. There is such a thing as bad writing, of course, but a bad personal story? Okay, I’m sure they exist, but Gilbert’s bestseller is anything but pity-me-memoir. It’s a gem. I recommend it. I’ll likely read it more than once.

Maybe I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love so much because I didn’t expect anything. Not that I had low expectations, but I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. (That’s evidence of me occasionally living under a protective rock.) I had heard it was good. I am aware of the upcoming movie with Julia Roberts. I knew there had been a poor review or two of the follow-up book, Committed. But, really, I knew little of what I was going to discover between the pages. Thus, not setting myself up for disappointment, I was fully equipped to simply… enjoy.

And I did. I was particularly fond of the Italian section, envious of Gilbert’s “no carb left behind” experience, consuming breads and pastas that I could just about taste each time I turned the page. It made me seriously consider going to Italy. (As if I wasn’t interested in doing so before I read the book.) India was intense. I’ll admit my spirituality level doesn’t usually register on any real scale, nor do I seek out material to read about others’ experiences with higher powers. Yet, this was a refreshing, honest quest of one woman that was somehow easily relatable to even me. Maybe because I am a hopefulness optimist who sees the good in things, does have a warmness to the idea of ‘karma,’ and generally just tries to be a somewhat nice person. (I said tries.) Then, hands down, Gilbert’s time in Indonesia had me laughing. The portrayal of the folks she met there, the relationships she built – and has sustained – were truly personal. The characters leapt off the page with how wonderfully real they were to me. Are to me. So much so, that when I watched the trailer for the upcoming film, it was as though I recognized each and every one of them.

What I liked most about this book, truly, was Gilbert’s voice and style. It is so informal, so personal, so much as though she is simply relating something intimate to a friend. It was as though we were enjoying a cup of coffee, or sharing a bowl of pasta, as she retold some of her journey. Not fancy. Not stuffy. Definitely not pity-me-memoir. Rather, her memoir was straightforward, take-it-or-leave-it, and dished out with just a little tongue-in-cheek sensibility from time to time, and lots (lots!) of self-deprecating humor for good measure. Plus, I love to travel and it was extremely fun to vicariously travel along with her on such a journey.

Is this a book review? Maybe. I don’t mean for it to be. I just want to extend some appreciation for a book I enjoyed. A book I recommend. A book I will read again.


  1. Hi Lori,

    I also read "Eat, Pray, Love" recently and thoroughly enjoyed it, for many of the same reasons you articulate in your blog. I also read "Committed," and while I didn't enjoy that one quite as much, I think the critics have been unfairly harsh with it. It wasn't trying to be a sequel, per se, it's telling a different story in a different way. Sorry to have missed you at AWP - I'm certain we'll meet next month in Louisville... I look forward to it!


  2. Hi Brian,

    I'll definitely see you in May at the Spalding residency! Please be sure to introduce yourself to me. ;)

    Thanks for mentioning your response to Committed, as well. I do plan on reading it... maybe on my next road trip???