When you read a lot, you quickly discover that most of the books out there are simply not very good. I don’t think that I have unrealistic expectations or standards that are too high (perhaps wanting a coherent plot and decent character development is asking too much?), but books that are truly great (in my opinion) are few and far between. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I read two books in the last week that I would classify as great.
The first and subject of this post is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had resisted reading this book because I have a perverse aversion to books that everyone is reading. I also roll my eyes at the proliferation of memoirs…apparently everyone’s mundane life is worth writing about. Yeah, yeah, yeah…pot, meet kettle. After all, I apparently believe that my mundane book reading is worth writing and reading about! Let’s just say that memoirs aren’t a genre I read much of.
Eat, Pray, Love details how the author, Elizabeth “Liz” Gilbert, saves herself by finding herself. She supposedly has the perfect life…big, beautiful house and wonderful husband, yet after many dark nights of the soul sobbing on her bathroom floor, she realizes that her life is not what she wants. After a horrible, ugly divorce that drags on for years, Liz is finally free, yet shattered, and she decides to break completely with her old life by traveling for a year. She spends four months in Italy (eat), 4 months in India (pray) and 4 months in Indonesia/Bali (love), and the book recounts her experiences and epiphanies during that time.
Gentle Reader, I confess that I am a convert. This book was amazing. First of all, Gilbert is a phenomenal writer and born storyteller. I marveled at how she constructed her sentences and the perfect metaphors she used. She made her story come alive. I had wondered what I could possibly get out of a book about a rather privileged, divorced woman, but her story was relatable…not the divorce part necessarily…but her struggles. Her struggle to know herself, heal herself and ultimately love herself after her personal tragedy was very relevant to me. Like Liz, I too seek some connection to the divine, and I was fascinated by her time in India and what she learned there. I hadn’t expected the book to be so spiritual. I don’t think she intended her book to be a self-help book, but I learned many things from it that I plan to use in my own life. I also appreciated that Liz put it all out there. She was brutally honest and didn’t hold back. She told the good and the bad about herself and her experiences.
Wow. Just wow. I feel like Eat, Pray, Love is a book that I will read again and need to read again–maybe many times–in order to catch everything. My only criticism of the book is that I didn’t think that the “Love” section in Bali was as good as the other two sections. It fell a little flat and seemd to end rather abruptly. That’s ok, though. There are 108 chapters in the book, and it’s divided into three parts. Whenever I notice that a book has 100 chapters or more, I always wonder about a connection to Dante’s Divine Comedy…another book with three sections and 100 chapters. It’s probably a stretch, but it was an interesting thought with which to amuse myself.
So, I highly recommend this book. In fact, I give it my highest praise: I’m going to buy a copy. I borrowed a copy from a coworker, but I think I’ll buy my own. It is definitely a book I want to reread.