Monday, December 15, 2008

Eat Pray Love

I don’t know. I just can’t jump on board the popularity train for this book. In fact, about midway through the book, I almost put it down and actually started to draft a review that I titled, “Eat Pray Barf” which pretty accurately reflected my initial feelings on the book. That said, after reading the last 100-150 pages or so, I decided to take the ‘barf’ part back. But only just.

I really like the book’s concept – recently divorced woman in her 30’s takes a year off to travel through Italy, India and Indonesia to figure some shit out. But the execution was filled with so many clichés it was a little painful for me.

At one point she remembers going to a party hosted by her friend who recently had a baby. The sight of the tired mother taking care of a baby and doing the dishes leaves her literally shaking and so terrified that she locks herself in the bathroom. All she can say when a friend finds her cowering in the bathroom is, “I don’t know what to do.” Then her friend who has no background information on what's bothering Liz says, “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.” Really? I hope this is an exaggeration to illustrate a point and not true because if so, then Elizabeth Gilbert is a grade A drama queen (and so is her friend). Same with the story used to illustrate her new found mental health in Italy when she wakes herself up by laughing out loud in the middle of the night. Annoying.

Also, the whole concept of taking off, leaving everything behind and travelling to “find yourself” isn’t really a novel concept. And having a spiritual “guru”? It just smacks of bougie celebs wearing red bracelets because it’s cool to be spiritual and “self aware”. Ditto on yoga retreats.

But my biggest bone to pick is that I didn’t really like Elizabeth Gilbert. Her writing is … fine. But her? Pretty annoying and kind of boring. I know, I know. I’m a heartless bitch. She was just a nice girl going through a rough time. I’m not saying that I actively disliked her, I just didn’t find her particularly unique, or engaging, or interesting. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely moments when reading the Italy chapters that I was swept away with an aching desire to take a year off and pig out on pizza and pasta. But then she’d go back to brooding over her tempestuous relationship with David (the man she shacked up with immediately after leaving her husband) and I’d feel the annoyance creep back. It bothered me how much more hung up on David she was than her ex husband. This is mostly because from what she told us of David, he bugged the shit out of me. I could totally picture her relationship with David before they broke up and I wanted to barf all over it. I liked that she was at least willing to own up to her desperate, neediness in relationships, but I’m not sure that being honest about something annoying makes it less annoying.

Anyways, I’m feeling like a total Negative Nancy so I’ll tell you what I did like. Everyone told me the best parts were in Italy (and I did enjoy the makeshift Thanksgiving chapter), but my favorite parts were actually in Indonesia. I loved Ketut the ancient medicine man and found the Wayan character entertaining (particularly when Wayan was “fucking with her” about buying a house). I think I also liked it because in general, Liz became less annoying towards the end. She wasn’t crying about not liking to chant, or moaning about David, or having dramatic convos with herself in her creepy journal. Basically, I think maybe the problem is that I’m sort of a hater of books about “finding yourself”. At which point you are perfectly entitled to ask me why the hell I decided to read this book. The truth is I didn’t really want to read it. But I needed to read two more books for the New Classics Challenge and when I sent a plea out to my coworkers, this was the first book that someone brought in for me to borrow.

10 comments:

cranky rae said...

Hater.

Jeane said...

It's always refreshing to me to hear a negative (and well-thought out) opinion on a book everyone else raves about. I haven't read this one, and don't think I want to.

raych said...

*sigh*

I hate this book in advance. I hated it as soon as it came out. I haven't even READ it yet, and so I feel really...I can't think of the word. But I feel wrong about saying that I hate it. I need to read it so that I can legitimately hate it.

Bybee said...

This is on my TBR and has been for about 1 year, but I continually shy away from it because she inserted herself too much into "The Last American Man" uh, maybe I should rewrite that sentence. Oh, never mind...

Jeane said...

Wow, I didn't even realize this was the same author until you left that comment, Bybee. Now I really don't want to read this book! (Although I did like The Last American Man, even if her presence was overbearingly annoying).

Charley said...

I didn't like this book much, either. I felt that it lacked focus.

mari said...

My thoughts exactly. If it wasn't for the New Classics Challenge I would not have read it either. I was not a fan.

trish said...

I KNEW I wouldn't like this book, and your review is proof.

But I liked reading your review, so thanks. At least I got some benefit from the book. :-)

cranky rae said...

Damn! I liked it quite a bit, and so did Christy and Stina and Jenni. I'm feeling shamed. Gilbert's annoying, sure, but I found it so totally enjoyable. I thought for sure you'd agree this was a good GP. Oh well, the cheese stands alone on this one.

Diane said...

I'm currently reading this book for NCC as well. I am very much enjoying it, but then again I can relate to some of what she is going through --- although I didn't get to travel the world to get over it! I did appreciate your review. You did a nice job in telling why you did not enjoy the book. I believe it's a story that readers will either love or hate!