Summary and book reviews of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love

One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

By Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2006,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2007,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

Italy

I wish Giovanni would kiss me.

Oh, but there are so many reasons why this would be a terrible idea. To begin with, Giovanni is ten years younger than I am, and — like most Italian guys in their twenties — he still lives with his mother. These facts alone make him an unlikely romantic partner for me, given that I am a professional American woman in my mid-thirties, who has just come through a failed marriage and a devastating, interminable divorce, followed immediately by a passionate love affair that ended in sickening heartbreak. This loss upon loss has left me feeling sad and brittle and about seven thousand years old. Purely
as a matter of principle I wouldn’t inflict my sorry, busted-up old self on the lovely, unsullied Giovanni. Not to mention that I have finally arrived at that age where a woman starts to question whether the wisest way to get over
the loss of one beautiful brown-eyed young man is indeed to promptly invite another one into her bed. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Gilbert writes that “the appreciation of pleasure can be the anchor of humanity,” making the argument that America is “an entertainment-seeking nation, not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one.” Is this a fair assessment?

  2. After imagining a petition to God for divorce, an exhausted Gilbert answers her phone to news that her husband has finally signed. During a moment of quietude before a Roman fountain, she opens her Louise Glück collection to a verse about a fountain, one reminiscent of the Balinese medicine man’s drawing. After struggling to master a 182-verse daily prayer, she succeeds by focusing on her nephew, who suddenly is free from nightmares. Do these incidents of fortuitous timing signal fate? ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

"Finding oneself" is arguably the most difficult subject to write well about, and most certainly the easiest genre of writing to criticize! If you're too intense people will send you up for taking yourself too seriously; but dip towards the lighthearted and you risk being written off as trite. Many critics feel Gilbert has got her tone spot on, but some feel that she has fallen into the latter category by being a little too lighthearted. Whatever the critics might think, Eat, Pray, Love has proven a hit with readers and has already been published in over twenty languages. It is also a shoe-in for a movie sometime soon (rights have already been optioned by Paramount).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
The New York Times - Jennifer Egan

Lacking a ballast of gravitas or grit, the book lists into the realm of magical thinking: nothing Gilbert touches seems to turn out wrong; not a single wish goes unfulfilled. What's missing are the textures and confusion and unfinished business of real life .... while I wouldn't begrudge this massively talented writer a single iota of joy or peace, I found myself more interested, finally, in the awkward, unresolved stuff she must have chosen to leave out.

San Francisco Chronicle - Don Lattin

Gilbert's writing is chatty and deep, confident and self-deprecating. She's a quick study and doesn't worry about leading readers down uncharted paths. That makes her work engaging and accessible but sometimes gets her and the rest of us lost in space.

The Boston Globe - Barbara Fisher

As a friend -- and as a writer -- she is innocently trusting, generous, loving, and expressive.

The Washington Post

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.

The New Yorker

Gilbert's exuberance and her self-deprecating humor enliven the proceedings: recalling the first time she attempted to speak directly to God, she says, "It was all I could do to stop myself from saying, 'I've always been a big fan of your work.'"

Entertainment Weekly

This insightful, funny account of her travels reads like a mix of Susan Orlean and Frances Mayes.

Los Angeles Times

A meditation on love in its many forms—love of food, language, humanity, God, and most meaningful for Gilbert, love of self.

Time

An engaging, intelligent, and highly entertaining memoir.

Kirkus Reviews

The author's writing is prosaic, sometimes embarrassingly so: "I'm putting this happiness in a bank somewhere, not merely FDIC protected but guarded by my four spiritbrothers."Lacks the sparkle of her fiction.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Starred Review. Gilbert's sensuous and audacious spiritual odyssey is as deeply pleasurable as it is enlightening.

Library Journal

A probing, thoughtful title with a free and easy style, this work seamlessly blends history and travel for a very enjoyable read. Highly recommended.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Gilbert grafts the structure of romantic fiction upon the inquiries of reporting in this sprawling yet methodical travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery.

Reader Reviews
Jordan

Thought provoking
In Elizabeth Gilberts book Eat, Pray, Love, I found it quite intriguing that she kicked out what was making her unhappy and took the matter into her own hands instead of seeking professional treatment. This book was very inspirational to me on a ...   Read More

Mickey

Thought provoking
The book caused me to do some introspective searching and brought an unexpected peace to my life. It was a "page turner" for me and I hope others will benefit as I did.

Minnie

I guess I understand
I'm not 100 percent sure of what she's going through, but somehow I have the same kind of feeling. Do I want to say what it is? No. There are inexplicable situations that one would only leave them to the therapists. Seriously, I find her experience ...   Read More

Stace

Disappointed
I was very excited to be reading this book for a college class. I am only 27 and found myself going through a rough divorce and thought that this book would be helpful and easy to relate to. I was sadly mistaken. This book bored me to death and it ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Elizabeth Gilbert was born in Connecticut in 1969 and was raised on a small family tree farm. She is the sister of the young adult novelist Catherine Murdock whose first book Dairy Queen was published in 2006. Elizabeth went to college in New York City in the early 1990’s, and spent the years after college traveling around the country and the world, working odd jobs, writing short stories and essentially creating what she has referred to as her own MFA program.

After more than five years of sending out work for publication and collecting only rejection letters, she finally broke onto the literary scene in 1993, when one of her short stories was pulled from the slush pile at Esquire magazine and published under ...

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