Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fall's Not Over Until Next Week, Baby

Ha! Betcha thought with all that baking and stuff purging I forgot to read! (And, oh, by the way--note the spiffy button from the Organizational Challenge! My husband about expired laughing. And begged me to do more purging to show it wasn't a fluke.) No, I'm just in the last 30 pages of way too many books right now. Last night, I finally finished Eat, Pray, Love.

I don't mean "finally" as in "Thank goodness that trudge through that book is over," but "finally" as in, "I'm so glad I finally had the time to spend with her on her trip around the world." From the time I started the book until I finished it, there was a real groundswell of interest in in, largely due to her appearance on Oprah (followed by her next appearance on Oprah). The story is a memoir, a genre I particularly enjoy, of a woman who, when she was in her mid-30s, left her admittedly good life behind to travel the world to find herself. I hate to write it that way, because it seems to belittle every part of the journey: her agony preceeding her divorce, the horrible divorce itself, and the thoughtful way she went about planning her yearlong trip around the world. But at heart, that's what this memoir is about.

Before her divorce, Liz Gilbert was a journalist and author who had already been around the world for her job, so when she jettisoned the life she had, she knew where she wanted to go. Italy, to learn Italian, the language she always loved and wanted to learn; India, to study and pray at the ashram of her guru; and Indonesia, to return to a mystic old man who had read her palm and foretold that she would return to Bali to live with him and write a book telling his story.

And that's pretty much what she did. I won't go in to what happened in each and every place, but I will mention that one of the most insightful comments I've ever heard about the book was from a friend at my book group who noted that she liked the author more and more as the book went on. I found I did too; not that her personality changed so much, necessarily, but that her attitude did. She had a lot of flippy little jokes in the Italy section that just didn't resonate with my sense of humor. But by the end of the book, she was much more focused on telling the tale. Or maybe it was an accurate reflection of her own attitude and its shift to reflection through her travels. Or maybe it was just her editor. I don't know. But I was glad I stuck with it.

Am I sorry I can't just jet of to Bali for a few months? Sure. But unlike many women who read this book, I don't necessarily feel I need to. She did some great exploring in to areas I'm interested in (meditation, the best pizza in Italy) and I loved being an armchair explorer with her. And even more, I'm glad she did the legwork so I don't have to. (For example, one of my best friends moves to Milan next year, so I know we are Italy-bound in the forseeable future and I am SO There to the pizza place in Naples. I know it's not exactly down the block from Milan, but I'm confident it will happen.)

Having read it, I don't quite understand the hype. Are there that many women in their 30s and 40s who wish they could do or had done what she did? Or just the vicarious thrill? Or just the universality of the quest for a great meal, a great love, and inner peace? Tough to say. But I did enjoy the book quite a bit, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys travel, memoir, or stories of meditation and healing.

And hey, speaking of healing, if you've stuck with me this long, go give good thoughts or prayers or holding in your heart at i am bossy. This is a family I know tangentially and they have had a roller coaster week with unfortunately the fun part of the ride first. Send healing thoughts for the 11-year-old good Samaritan who is a lovely kid. No one deserves a good deed to end with a dog bite, but her mom is right: especially not this one.

Look for more books to end soon!


Anjali said...

Oh, I'm in Bali still, but hope to finish it soon.

I'm actually one of those people who would love to do what she did -- but I think that's because I'm in the midst of a somewhat spiritual quest myself. I think if you ARE secure and content in your spiritual life, it may seem a bit over the top to do so much traveling.

Thanks for the great review. Had a good cry reading Bossy's post -thanks for letting us know to send our support.

O said...

Oh, don't get me wrong, if someone gave me a big pile of money to repeat her itinerary, I would, in a heartbeat. I just can't imagine chucking my life here and now to do it. So I guess I would need big pile of money x4!