In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want--husband, country home, successful career--but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. (summary and book cover courtesy of goodreads.com)
Now I will start out with this review acknowledging that Elizabeth Gilbert has received a lot of criticism about what it must have cost for her to indulge in the year of self-exploration in this book. I want to point out that 1) I believe she still had a flexible job while traveling (travel writer - and writing the book), 2) there are many ways to travel cheaply (particularly if you are renting and not staying at a hotel as she did) and 3) she was divorced, unattached, and had sold a bunch of her stuff. Who cares how she chose to spend the money she did had?
Fiscal responsibility aside (and I would argue this book talked a lot about shucking guilt-induced, self-imposed responsibilities), this book was a fantastic journey around the world and into the mind of Gilbert. In the fast-paced world of today, it is easy to see how quickly one can get caught up in being who you’re “supposed to” be and doing the things you are “supposed to” do. While recognizing her family/friends thought she was crazy, Gilbert’s hilarious commentary around the world was refreshing and insightful. I may not be ready to take the leap as Gilbert did, but I certainly loved following along with her journey from the comfort of my armchair.
Rating: 4 stars!
Who Should Read It? Folks looking for a book that will challenge the cookie cutter definition of normal and encourage a second-look at what creates happiness in their life. Or someone just looking for a travel experience lived vicariously through a book.