Thursday, 5 April 2007

Pasta, Puja and Promise: A Pilgrim's Tale

Eat, Pray, Love:

One Woman’s Search for Everything
Across Italy, India and Indonesia

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Viking; 2006
331 pages

Every once in a long while, a book comes along that fills the soul’s myriad hungers for vicarious hedonism, heaven and healing. This would be that book.

Gilbert has managed to craft a memoir that is witty and wise, sexy and soulful, not to mention extremely engaging and entertaining. She recounts her journey post-divorce – an experience she likens to “having a really bad car accident every single day for about two years;” post break-up from her rebound lover, and post-depression; from that place of disconnect and discontent, to the sacred self or I, as alphabetical mapping would have it.

In fact, she ends up heading to not to one singular I but to three Is: Italy to learn the fine art of pleasure, India to find discover devotion, and Indonesia to explore the sacred balance between the two. As such, her journey takes her to Rome to learn Italian, to an Ashram in northern India to immerse herself in the intricacies of Siddha Yoga, and to a Balinese village to glean wisdom from a medicine man.

While her story does read with a measure of surreality, complete with a fairy tale happy ending, she unabashedly hangs her hat on the one truth that shines like a beacon throughout the pages. “I was the administrator of my own rescue,” she asserts, a truth the reader becomes witness to some three hundred pages along the road with her.

She fashions her book into the three country sections for a total of 108 chronicles or tales (plus one to spare), along the lines of a japa mala or string of prayer beads. This methodology is apropos for her journey because threaded into each quirky chronicle of this pilgrimess’ tale is a glimmer of grace and and a bead of divinity.

What is notable and curious to this particular tourism marketer, is that despite the fact Gilbert took a year off to explore these disparate nations, her travels are anything but touristy. She shockingly admits to visiting just one museum while in Italy (and only at her visiting sisters’ insistence) and never venturing beyond the Ashram to see the real India of mughals, monuments and maharajas charted by history and folklore. And she doesn’t even escape to a beach in Indonesia until six weeks after arriving, shock of all shames.

Instead, she ascribes to the when in Rome adage. She hangs out in restaurants or at soccer matches, where she feasts on “a delirious banquet of Italian language.” Her passage to India is no less authentic an experience. She spends almost all her time in meditation and even finds herself “pulled through the wormhole of the Absolute” into her own mystical experience, not on the penultimate page but rather, a mere 67 beads along the tale’s pearly string. And her time in Indonesia is just as off-beat and magical. She hangs with the locals, befriends the village medicine man, and learns exactly what it means to live life fully in the moment.

What else remains to be said of the book except simply this: read it. Find a good cozy corner in the sun, or tuck yourself 'neath a nice lamp on your chaise lounge with a fuzzy chenille blanket and ensconce yourself in her journey. But do so before the movie version (Brad Pitt production starring Julia Roberts) comes out. Trust me. And if you're going to order your book online at Amazon...ahem, look and click no further than my sidebar. I've got my own sacred travel plans too, ya know.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like just the kind of book I enjoy reading: thank you for the recommendation and review! I will click it up today!

Victoria Bresee said...

I finally allowed myself the treat of reading this book. I haven't read anything that made me laugh out loud, all by myself, over and over again.

What a gift for language and description!

Holy Thought of the Week

"To live fully is to let go and die with each passing moment, and to be reborn in each new one."

~ Jack Kornfield ~