Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bookanista Feature: Elizabeth Gilbert's EAT, PRAY, LOVE

The Bookanistas are a group of writers - in various stages of the publishing process – who have decided to band together and review the special books of our peers.  No negative reviews here! We post every Thursday and cover various topics– upcoming ARCs, books we love, special diamonds in the rough, classics, and even cover reviews.

EAT, PRAY, LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert

Oh, dear.

I'm afraid I'm going to lose all Bookanista street cred with this one.

This book is a memoir, not fiction, and it's certainly not YA. It's not at all my usual fare. That's evidenced by the fact that this book has been out forever, and I've only now picked it up.

In looking at other reviews, it seems people either LOVE this book...or HATE it. I'm going to take a little bit of a different route with this Bookanista Feature, therefore.
  • Complaint 1: the narrator is a typical rich white woman, and her problems are nothing compared to, say, the suffering in the third world. It comes off as whiney.
    • BUT: that's not what this book is about. It's a memoir of one specific person in one specific situation. Yes, it's a bit narcissistic, and yes, there are bigger issues in the world than one woman's divorce and recovery from heartbreak. But we each have our own stories, and this is hers. And honestly? Even if this was nonfiction, I have to admit I read it a bit as if it were escapist fiction. I'd be lying if I didn't say I imagined living in the apartment in Rome, flying to Bali by myself...
  • Complaint 2: the solution to the narrator's problems are to travel the world in search of herself. Yeah, that's great--but how realistic is it? It's not like we can drop everything to have a life-altering adventure. 
    • BUT: wouldn't we want to if we could? I mean, I know I don't have the means to literally stop my life for a year and explore foreign countries. I don't. I probably never will. Most of us probably never will. ...but wouldn't we want to if we could? If I can't do it, at least she can, I least I can read about it.
  • Complaint 3: this book is so self-centered. The author goes to Italy, India, and Indonesia--and it's all about "I, I, I" 
    • BUT: this is a memoir. Isn't that a little the point? And actually, I didn't really think it was all about "her, her, her." What really made this book interesting to me is that Liz sprinkled in other people's stories with her own. You get a sense she really got to know the people she surrounded herself with.
So, yeah: there are a lot of complaints out there about this book. But in the end, I just found it fun--and beyond that, the author is a brilliant writer. She knows how to make a simile! They stand out so wonderfully--at one point, she describes "grapes with skins as tight as showgirls' leotards." Try to tell me that's not a brilliant simile.

As a side note: I listened to this book on audio book, narrated by the author, and it really enhanced the story. I loved hearing her voices to the different characters, and she really sounded like an old friend telling me about her adventures.

Is this book the life-altering spiritual memoir some people claim it to be? For me--no. It was light, fun, and an adventure.



Myrna Foster said...

Thanks, Beth! I haven't read this one yet.

Christine Fonseca said...

Nice review Beth!

Katie Anderson said...

I admit it. I LOVED this book!

Anonymous said...

I usually don't comment on blogs (just stalk) but I just had to tell you that I loved your review of this book. We read it for my book club and heard all 3 of the complaints that you listed - but you have perfectly addressed each one of them. I, too, listened to it and loved her narration - it was so rich. And her Italian was beautiful. We are going to Italy in May with 2 other couples and listening to her describe her adventures in Italy was wonderful. Thanks for such a thoughtful review.

Joni Roecker (aka The Regulator)

TerryLynnJohnson said...

thanks for the great review! I bought this a while ago, but still haven't read it!
(had to finish Linger, Mockingjay, The Iron Daughter, and The Book Thief first)

~Jamie said...

haha! No street cred loss here! I think we should all bust out of our YA bubble every once in a while and check out the awesome in all the other genres.

Elana Johnson said...

Well, brilliant writing always wins out, no? YES.

Scott Tracey said...

Elizabeth Gilbert fascinates me - I saw her talk on creativity at the TED conference awhile ago, and I've always wanted to pick up this book just to see what the fuss was about.

Unknown said...

Scott--The TED talk is what got me to read the book, too!

Shannon Messenger said...

Ooo, I have been wondering if I should read this one--and I like your assessment of it. Sounds like I need to pick up a copy. ;)

Carolyn V. said...

Thanks for the review! I have a friend who thinks I should read this book. Now I have a little info on it, I might have to put it on the tbr list. =)

Sherrie Petersen said...

I read this book a couple years ago after a friend gave it to me and I loved it. She's a great writer.