Biography, Book Review, Health, Non Fiction, Self-Help, Travel

Book Review: Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert

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While I love chick-flicks, they are not the only books that I read (the proof is in the pudding – or rather, in my bookshelf). I read everything and anything, except a certain couple of genres. There is one in particular that I have always been very wary of: self-help books. The few I perused a couple of years ago were vague to the point of tearing-my-hair-out frustration and I set the entire genre aside to focus on, amongst others, chick flicks. Because really, how can a book, written by someone who isn’t omniscient and who has no idea what I’m going through, help me deal with all my problems?

But lately there has been a recent surge of amazing self-help books, which take into consideration each person’s individuality and seek to inspire rather than solve. Just in case you haven’t noticed, life is very complex; your problems continuously morph, and the ‘same’ problem two people might be having is actually quite different. While general rules might apply to both, it doesn’t make sense for one formula to be applicable in both situations. However, both can be inspired to rise above what can be extremely difficult circumstances and make life worth living.

One such book that I highly recommend is Eat Pray Love. While it won’t give you the answers as to what is life about and how do you get over a bad break-up, Eat Pray Love does give you hope that if you stay true to your journey, you will end up in a better place than when you started.

The storyline is quite simple. “Reeling from a contentious divorce, a volatile rebound romance and a bout of depression, [Elizabeth Gilbert] decided at 34 to spend a year traveling in Italy, India and Indonesia. “I wanted to explore one aspect of myself set against the backdrop of each country, in a place that has traditionally done that one thing very well,” she writes. “I wanted to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India and, in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two.” Her trip was financed by an advance on the book she already planned to write, and Eat, Pray, Love is the mixed result.” (From: The New York Times).

The author is surprisingly open and honest about the various steps she goes through on her journey, even going so far as to admit that she would doze instead of meditating. By doing so, she focuses on the journey as much as the insights it gave her. She is also quite candid about the fact that even after taking such a long time to discover herself, she still has a long road ahead of her. Rather than losing respect for her, these admissions make her all the more human, thus making her trip seem all the more attainable to her very human readers.

While Elizabeth Gilbert wrote this book when she was in her mid-thirties, the appeal of this book isn’t limited to women of that age, but rather spreads to anyone who is willing to be open and honest with themselves about their failings and limitations and are ready to do something concrete about them rather than just complain. She manages to still be witty and light-hearted even while tackling heavy and important subjects.

The author’s honesty is further enhanced by the structure she adopts in writing her book. Rather than going into full blown, twenty page monologues, she organized her book in little sections, each very meaningful yet short enough that a busy person can catch a little snippet in between meetings or on a commute. That in itself is some wise editing.

The writing, while not the most complex and literary, is fluid and easy to read. It fulfills the purpose of the book in a pleasurable way. Once you are hooked to her story (which happens pretty quickly), the book is as easy to read as it is to cut through warm butter with a knife.

I found one of the most memorable quotes of the book to be the following: Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” This quote summarized one of the most important lessons of Eat Pray Love: that happiness doesn’t just happen. You have to want it, to work hard for it and, when you get it, you have to take care of it. And the book does inspire you to do just so.

One last word for the wise: the first part of Elizabeth Gilbert’s trip happens in Italy and is all about eating great food. This might inspire you to develop a sudden and constant yearning for carbohydrates, the consequence of which we are all quite aware of. You have been warned.

For more information about the book, please visit its official website.

First published on 15 September 2008 on Sahar’s Blog.

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