When I first heard the premise of Eat, Pray, Love
— a woman's journey after a series of personal hardships to find peace and happiness across three countries — I thought it was going to be a solemn retelling of the pilgrimage-like voyage in the likes of Paulo Coelho. Of course I was wrong.
Elizabeth Gilbert tells an honest story (which starts with the quote "Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth") of her emotional and psychological breakdown after a harrowing divorce and a whirlwind romance. Embarking on a culinary expedition to Italy for the sake of pleasure (eat
), a spiritual retreat at a temple in India (pray
), and a search for balance with the help of an elderly medicine man on a tourist island in Indonesia (love
), she shares how she progresses from depression to a balanced, full life.
At first I didn't really get how serious Gilbert's problem was — she only mentioned the word 'suicidal' in a passing, almost nonchalant way — until she described her use of medication and the moments when she seriously thought of killing herself. Her tone is often melancholic in places; in others it was rich with humor and wit. Some have called her a self-centered whiner but to me she was only expressing her anguish, trying to make sense of her world after it turned upside down, and finally allowing herself to heal.
I also find that Gilbert's open-mindedness toward many schools of spiritualism and religion leads me to tolerate hers as well. I may or may not agree with her practices and beliefs (one of them is that there is no such thing as hell because if imperfect humans can be so compassionate and forgiving, why not God almighty Himself?) but it doesn't stop me from appreciating them. In an era where religious debate can so easily lead to scathing insult and physical aggression, Gilbert's take on religion is a breath of fresh air.
But the core of the story, for me, is that Gilbert's search brought her face to face with the only one who can help her: herself. Only you can bring yourself from an awful state to a better place. Just like Gilbert's favorite Italian word: "Attraversiamo"
(let's cross over).