Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

We welcome back regular contributor Dave Baldwin who reviewed Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. Enjoy his insights and please let us know what you thought of this book, too!

I must admit that I hesitated to read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert when my friend recommended the book. I was afraid it would turn out to be “chick lit.” Based on the blurb copy, I expected to read “Eastern Philosophy Meets Sex and the City.” My fears proved unjustified, and I found myself fascinated to get the female Generation-X urbanite’s perspective on world religions as they apply to real twenty-first century life. For me personally, the book had the added bonus of helping me to understand  women a tad bit better, and that alone made the book worth reading.

Gilbert’s raw, authentic, matter-of-fact writing style was the first thing that hooked me. I later learned, after finishing the book, that she had deliberately written the book as if talking to her best friend. That made perfect sense. Throughout the story, I had a sense that the juicy morsels of the story weren’t held back at all. Don’t get me wrong; she doesn’t delve into exhibitionistic detail about the goings-on in her bedroom. She shares the little things that one would only expect a friend to understand.

I would have sworn that I didn’t have a sexist bone in my body until Eat, Pray, Love forced some of my unconscious gender biases to the surface, starting with the first chapter. My ever-judging mind read the opening scene – where Gilbert shares her revelation that she had no desire to stay married – and immediately began to expect a paleo-feminist man-hating tirade. “Great,” I thought. “This is going to be a book about what a creep her husband was, by extension, the whole male sex is.” She shattered that illusion. Gilbert’s frankness in admitting her own guilt in the matter of her divorce and going inward to work on herself was admirable, but what really sold me was her leap of faith that led to a conscious awakening. I was a bit ashamed of myself.

Not once throughout the book did I find it difficult or even challenging to relate to her writing from a male perspective. The struggles that Gilbert shared, for the most part, did not occur to me as distinctly female, but as universal to the human condition. It also didn’t strike me that she wrote her book just for women. Gilbert seemed willing to be heard and understood by anyone willing to listen. For one example, she shared her comical Abbott and Costello-esque battle with her mind during meditation. Her recounting of several episodes struggling to quiet her mind was all too familiar.

I clearly saw a “before” and “after” picture of Gilbert’s life that showed both compassion and warrior-like discipline. She started out in what appeared to be a sleepwalking pattern, living life according to what she thought everyone else wanted. Little by little, page by page, I could see her questioning her own assumptions and the artificial unwritten rules of the culture that had kept her self-expression stifled during the decades that had preceded her 18-month journey. The Elizabeth Gilbert at the end of the story was clearly a different Elizabeth Gilbert from the one at the start, but I could also see that the real person underneath all the layers and masks hadn’t changed from page one. She exemplified what it can look like to allow one’s real self to float gently to the surface.

The most valuable aspect of this book, from my perspective as a reader, was getting to see what it looks like to move from a “default” life to a created life. I saw the essence of adventure in Gilbert’s writings, and it challenged me to take more aggressive steps forward in my own life. It made me just a bit more uncomfortable with the ordinary aspects of my existence, which is what a good book should do.

About Dave: 
Dave Baldwin is a writer who has lived and worked in Raleigh, NC since 2007. He has self-published two books: Pied Piper Entrepreneurship (2009) and Get That Book Out of Your Head! (2009).



Your Turn:
For those of you who have read Eat, Pray, Love what did you think about it? Did it move you? Did it make you see things differently (or not)? Tell me!