Eat, Pray, Love – and Read

Eat, Pray, Love – Anna’s reading challenge

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert / Subject: Spirituality, Romance / Genre: Memoir Publication date: February 16, 2006 / Pages: 352 pp Film adaptation: 2010 / Starring: Julia Roberts, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Javier Bardem

Eat, Pray, Love is a book about Liz, a middle-aged woman whose life seemingly goes more than well. She is married, just bought a house and has a steady career as a journalist. However, when she goes through a nasty divorce, not only does she lose her love but also a substantial set of values she built her personality around. Now with these gone, she is forced to question who she actually is and simultaneously reinvent herself.

At first I was careful with this book. There is a sea of self-empowering novels written especially for women in which we have a very self-reliant, yet sensitive female protagonist. But even though these independent women promote girl power, the topics remain shallow and the climax of the novel is paradoxically when the protagonists finally gets together with the desired other sex.  Sure, there are similarities with Liz’s book but Eat, Pray, Love does not pretend to be something it is not. In addition, it centres around grand topics like finding your place in our modern society and just as the title suggests, religion and love.

Centuries ago there were assigned roles for the various layers of masses (e.g. ruling classes, different races and sexes) which were difficult to break. These roles were obviously far from perfect but with the help of these, people could easily identify themselves. Women were first and foremost mothers while men had the role of breadwinners. These roles have fortunately been changing but the traditional setup of roles are still largely present. Even though Liz’s husband wishes her to become a mother, she questions herself if motherhood is actually a fitting role for her and not just a step in life she is expected to take. However, once she admits to herself that she does not want to have a baby, she has to find out what she can really be besides being a mother. In order to do this, she sets out on a journey from the lively Rome, through a rigorous Buddhist temple to the marvellous Indonesia.

“You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

In the course of finding out who she is, she turns to religion. Centuries ago religion gave a frame in which people had a purpose. However, similarly to the given roles of the sexes, the roles assigned by religion have also been eroding. As Christian religion is shrinking, we can feel that we are left without a guidebook to live by and there is a growing gap in people left by religion which used to be filled with a sense of purpose. In Liz’s journey we see how crucial part religion can play in people’s lives. Believing in something does not necessarily come with an explosive revelation but instead it weaves through our everydays with a feeling of sense. The biggest lesson she learns from Buddhism is to find heavenly beauty within herself and in this world. And Liz’s positive attitude leaks from the pages onto the reader and prompts them as well to appreciate the small gifts which can be found around us if we can walk with our eyes open for them.

“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

While the book discusses heavy issues, it remains a rather light reading. Eat, Pray, Love tackles an existentialist topic in a very tangible and down-to-earth way. What makes her book outstanding is the honesty she displays her story with. It encourages you to be brave and step outside your comfort-zone but it does not lead you to believe that this is an easy process. And in the end, when she finds love, unlike in many other novels, the man does not come to rescue Liz from her otherwise pathetic existence. He comes because love is an essential part of life and it is a reward one can only fully experience if they experienced peace and love within themselves first.



Vibes Columnist

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