I first saw Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert months ago in the new books display at the local public library. I put it on my list of books to read, but forgot about it. Then I saw it listed on one of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits, but still didn’t pick it up. Then my wife, LEB, started reading it. The third time was the charm and once she finished reading it I read it.
LEB and I talked about it a little before I read it. She said some of her female colleagues at work disliked the book and only read the first few chapters because they thought it was too whiny. I did not feel that, I felt Gilbert accurately described depression and classic codependent behavior. I think that those who described it as whining must have never experienced depression themselves or been close to someone in the depths of depression. If they had, they must not really have understood what was happening. Depression is an illness, not the fault of the individual. And most people have no control over it without intervention of medicine and perhaps the skills that can be imparted by cognitive therapy. In fact it has been shown that in depressed people the brain is physcially not functioning properly, see Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Dr. Daniel G Amen.
Anyway, back to the book. After an interminable, contentious even viscious divorce Gilbert departs on a year long journey around the world. She divides her trip into three sections and three countries: Italy, India and Indonesia. She decides to experience pleasure in Italy gorging herself on wonderful Italian food and wine, diving into the sensuality of the surroundings. Her descriptions of place, food and folk make me long to be in Italy. In fact, I could read a passage, close my eyes and be there. Surprisingly, or maybe not if recall the Epicurean philosophers of Greece, Gilbert learns a lot about herself in Italy.
The next stop is India at the ashram of her Indian Guru. Here she explores devotion and seeks closeness to God. Again, I can see and feel in my minds eye and body the 3AM meditative chanting and the devotional scrubbing of the floors, which is her job of service for most of her stay. I never much considered visiting an Indian ashram, but perhaps I should.
Last stop is Bali, Indonesia where the author seeks to balance the two extremes of pure pleasure from Italy and ascetic, devotion in the Indian ashram. Again the scenes and interactions with people are perfectly depicted. I can imagine myself partaking of the expat life in Bali.
I haven’t described them, but the book is filled with wonderful characters that Elizabeth meets along the way. She is the type of person who makes friends easily and quickly wherever she may go. This is a talent, a skill of which I am most envious.
All in all, this is a great book. Pick it up and read it, you won’t be disappointed.