Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir
It’s been ten years since the publication of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray Love, so to honor the anniversary she invited her readers to submit their own essays about how the memoir inspired their own spiritual journeys. Each essay is a unique answer to a question that Gilbert asked herself when she was overwhelmed with the book’s success: why did the book touch so many lives? Gilbert’s memoir has sold more than 10 million copies and it has been translated into over thirty languages. And unless you have been living under a rock, you know it was also turned into a major-motion picture, starring Julia Roberts. I was one of those readers who enjoyed the book, so when I saw this collection, I had to get my hands on it.
What did I think about it? Well, it’s complicated. You know that feeling you get when you are looking for a new shampoo and you find yourself completely overwhelmed by choice? Paralysis by analysis—yes, I know, first world problems. I’m not trying to invoke a politically incorrect Russian era nostalgia for bare grocery shelves, just trying to call attention to the other extreme: too many choices.
Gilbert’s memoir was successful because it was a beautifully written account of ONE woman’s journey of self-exploration, not a collection of 47 first-person tales of woe. It’s one thing to eat, pray, love and live vicariously through the eyes of one woman and another to get that same escapism satisfaction through a series of less than stellar essays chronicling people’s journey from panic and confusion to blissful happiness and fulfillment.
What did I do wrong? Eager to recreate the feeling that I got when I read the original, you know that all consuming desire to read and read until you have reached the end, I read the collection in one sitting. So, I felt a little overwhelmed. One woman’s journey melded into another woman’s journey and I couldn’t remember if this one was getting over a divorce, losing her job or a best friend. Stories that I should have savored, slowly, one or two at a time lost their saliency. I could barely discern one experience from the other.
Roxanne Roberts, style writer for The Washington Post kind of describes what happens when you approach the anthology in this way:
“The book is waterlogged with sobbing women who break down at the drop of a metaphor. Sobbing in the kitchen, sobbing in front of the TV, sobbing while reading and, best of all, sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom: the very place Gilbert had her own Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus conversion, the Holy Grail of breakdowns…’I genuinely related to Gilbert’s every word. I, too, cried on my bathroom floor!’ writes the ‘freshly divorced writer’…Reading essay after essay, a pattern emerges: Many of these women (the contributors are overwhelmingly female) struggled with marriage, motherhood, infertility, cancer, divorce, addiction, grief or depression.”
In summary, my advice is to read the essays one at a time because the majority of the essays really capture the books original intention: to tell a story about the spirituality of acceptance. Gilbert’s memoir gave people the courage to question aspects of their life that had rarely been questioned. Are they fulfilled with their personal relationships? Have they chosen a career that places joy before money? What can you do now that will help you get in touch with your emotions and intuition? In other words, approach the essays the way you would a book of daily affirmations or a box of chocolates–one by one.