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Book Review: Eat, Pray, Love

Ms. Gilbert & OprahI picked up Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love several months ago after Amazon’s computers recommended it to me. Makes sense; insightful single woman, recovering from tragedy, travels alone and finds herself.

But a disturbing finding troubled me. I started looking around, and everyone seemed to be reading it. It was on nightstands, in planes, in beauty shops. People everywhere seemed to know about this book. Because guess what, it was on Oprah!

The book’s Oprah-ization meant only one thing: the book was either (a) trite and over-commercialized or (b) a rare moment when the public at large actually pays attention to an intellectual literary achievement. I was hopeful.

It’s a book I was supposed to like, but couldn’t. Elizabeth’s half-assed meandering through the first half of her life was painful to read about. Her first major tragedy in life is, by all accounts, a horribly painful divorce, which I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But it appears to have been the result of her own lack of decision-making, something only the most privileged and coddled have to worry about. Who gets to say, “I destroyed lives around me because no one taught me how to make decisions!” and then quit work to take an all-expense paid trip to “deal” with it? I had great difficulty being sympathetic. And when she makes the decision, in the darkest point of her life, not to take her meds, I thought, “From exactly what type of place is this woman coming from? How lucid can she be?” I put the book down.

And so it went, I’d pick up the book, get exasperated, and put it right back down. For three months. I certainly admire Ms. Gilbert in her humility, her healing, her deep appreciation for non-Western cultures. No doubt the journey was integral to who Ms. Gilbert is today, and I congratulate her for that. But the trite writing and the less-than-insightful insights disappointed me.

Sure, maybe I’m just too cynical, too jaded, jealous, even. But I believe that a truly insightful book will involve you, move you beyond your prejudices and really teach you something. This one simply didn’t live up to its considerable hype.

It’s hard for me to find credit in a book that so perfectly ties in to Oprah’s peculiar brand of McSpirituality. On Oprah’s website, Ms. Gilbert’s book has earned its own dedicated section, where you can “tag along on Liz’s quest for happiness and fulfillment that has sparked an inspirational movement!”

Me, I’ll go on my own original journey, thanks.

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Believe it or not, someone even more vapid than Liz read a press release describing the book, and decided to imitate the journey for herself. Unfortunately, she came away from it with more tragedies than epiphanies. In another of three blog entries dedicated to (as they call it) Eat, Pray, Loathe, they seem to agree with me about the absurdity of the plot.

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