three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
22-May-June-2006
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One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia

A-EatPrayLoveIn her early 30s, Elizabeth Gilbert’s marriage imploded, sending her into a profound depression. With a book advance in hand, she left her writing work, declared celibacy, and set off on a quest for fulfillment. In Rome she "decanted" herself, indulging in the pleasures of the table while learning Italian. Her next stop, India, found Gilbert practicing yoga and meditation in an effort to still her busy mind long enough to find God. By the time she reached Bali to visit an ancient healer, she was whole enough to open herself to a new love and bring her pilgrim’s journey to a satisfying close.
Viking. 352 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0670034711

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"For every ounce of self-absorption her classically New Age journey demands, Gilbert is ready with an equal measure of humor, intelligence and self-deprecation. Although her focus is turned inward, her writer’s eye remains wide open, hungrily taking in details that animate both her inner and outer journeys." Erika Schickel

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"It is foremost an intimate account of a spiritual journey. But it’s also a zippy travelogue with rich, likable characters and laugh-out-loud humor. Gilbert sticks to her vow to be celibate, but does have lots of flirty fun." Sarah Peasley

Raleigh News & Observer 3 of 5 Stars
"It’s the story of someone who left a life of miserable conformity, dismissed society’s strictures on duty, marriage, and family life, and sought her own destiny. … Ultimately, maybe the irritation Eat, Pray, Love threatens to arouse is a gadfly sensation on our thickened skins, rousing the dour among us to our own voyage of self-discovery." Charlotte Jackson

San Francisco Chronicle 3 of 5 Stars
"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." Don Lattin

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"The only thing wrong with this readable, funny memoir of a magazine writer’s yearlong travels across the world in search of pleasure and balance is that it seems so much like a Jennifer Aniston movie. … [B]ecause she never leaves her self-deprecating humor at home, her journey out of depression and toward belief lacks a certain gravitas." Grace Lichtenstein

NY Times Book Review 2 of 5 Stars
"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, as if Gilbert were pushing these out of sight so as not to come off as dull or equivocal or downbeat." Jennifer Egan

Critical Summary

It’s easy to envy Elizabeth Gilbert: she has had a run of successful, critically lauded books (National Book Award finalist for The Last American Man; Pushcart Prize winner for Pilgrims) and has sustained a successful career as a journalist for Spin and GQ. Her "trademark conversational" prose (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) is on display in her first memoir-cum-travelogue, yet not all reviewers are pleasantly engaged. They agree that the 108 chapters of the book (the same number of Buddhist prayer beads on a japa mala) are filled with interesting characters and vivid descriptions. But some critics feel Gilbert’s likability and humor obscure the deeper themes of her search for enlightenment.