Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Book Review: Eat, Pray, Love (no spoilers)

I did not intend to buy Eat, Pray, Love.

Several months ago, I stomped through Borders on a mission to find the second and third books in the His Dark Materials trilogy, but came up empty-handed. Frustrated, I made my way back toward the exit but stopped short in order to skim the huge wall of best-sellers. My eyes landed on Eat, Pray, Love, and I vaguely recalled reading a favorable review of it in a magazine. The cover didn't hurt, either... "eat" formed by pasta, "pray" made out of prayer beads and "love" created by flower petals. I read the back cover to refresh my memory - it was the true story of a woman my age who ditched everything to spend a year abroad and "find herself" - one-third of that time in Italy, one-third in India and one-third in Bali. It seemed intriguing enough and it was only $15, so I bought it.

And, like so many other books I've skipped home with in the past, it proceeded to sit on my shelf and collect dust - week upon week upon week.

Until I went to the dentist. Strangely enough, I was reminded about Eat, Pray, Love by my dentist's assistant, who was talking about how she was on a never-ending quest to perfect her pizza dough recipe (I'm assuming she was just trying to fill the silence as she was scrubbing the tea stains from the inside of my teeth). She remarked, "It's kind of like in that book Eat, Pray, Love, when..."

"AAHHHHHH!!!!!" I cut her off (she had my mouth pried open at this point, or else I would've said something intelligible. "I bwaaa tha boo buh haduh raaa uh yuh!!!!!"

Since you must be highly skilled in understanding gibberish to become a dental technician in the first place (little known fact), she said no more - realizing that I did indeed have the book she mentioned, but hadn't read it yet.

When I arrived home with my dazzling teeth, I spent about 15 minutes trying to find the book again. I kept it out as a reminder to take with me when I went to New York. Fast-forward a few weeks to a Thursday night when I arrived at Miss M's place -- and what did she just so happen to be reading, too? That's right, Eat, Pray, Love. The mostly rainy weekend in the Hamptons allowed both of us to finish the book by Sunday.

So here's my take on it... and I will not give anything away whatsoever by some of the points I call out, I promise - you know how I hate spoilers!

Overall, I did like the book. If you are a woman, then you should probably just read it. If you are a guy, I'm not so sure. No matter who you are, this book will make you feel better about yourself, I guarantee that. Either you will identify with some of the things Elizabeth (the author) has gone through and be reassured that you are not alone and feel somewhat inspired by her story, or you will not really be able to relate to her, but will therefore feel not as screwed up as perhaps you thought you were, and still enjoy the story. I fell into the latter camp.

There were some aspects of Elizabeth's personality that I understood - especially since she is a writer by trade and works through a lot of things by writing stuff down. And like her, I know how it feels to be confused about whether or not you want kids... and I certainly love to travel. I also connected with her thoughts about religion and spiritualism... because the more you travel, the more you see the similarities in religions rather than the differences. But what I didn't like about the book was that there was just a bit too much navel-gazing for my taste. I had been looking forward to reading more about the places themselves - but there was hardly any of that. I have been to Italy and spent a month in Bali - so I thought it would be fun to reminisce when she happened upon certain spots I recognized. And since I've never been to India, I was even more excited to read about her experience there. Unbelievably (for reasons that would be spoilers in a few cases, so I won't say why), there was almost no mention of any specific places she visited across the three countries. So I was greatly disappointed in that aspect of the book; the story was very, very focused on her spiritual journey - much more so than I had expected. And much of that journey for her seemed to be about getting over certain men in her life, which came across a tad adolescent. She struck me as boy-crazy and fairly obsessed with sex. The more the book went on, the more she reminded me of this insane client that I had to travel to ten countries with back in the day (who fit the physical description of the author as well), and then I couldn't get the picture of that client out of my head, and it was awful. But you won't have that problem, so you've got that going for you.

So, if you are prepared for this book to not so much be a travelogue but rather a memoir about trying to find inner peace, then you'll probably enjoy it. While, as I mentioned, she doesn't delve into the places she visits that much, there are interesting people that she meets along the way, which is always the best part about traveling. Ironically, even though she's in these other countries, my favorite person in the book was a Texan, just because of the ridiculous things he said. Texans have some of the best expressions ever.

I just read an article that said that the movie rights for this book had been bought by Paramount, Brad Pitt's Plan B company will produce it and Julia Roberts is set to play the main character. Then when I looked it up on imdb.com, it said that the movie was slated for 2008, but if I wanted to know more I had to sign up for the "14-day free trial," and we all know how those things go! So that's all I know about the movie. My thoughts on a film-version of Eat, Pray, Love are as follows:
1) It could be very good - there are enough interesting things that happen... so if they did it right, it could be better than the book.
2) Julia Roberts?!?!!? Nooooooooooo!!!! First off, the author is pale and has curly blond hair. Julia Roberts is NOT who comes to mind. Secondly, I cannot STAND Julia Roberts. That topic deserves a post of its own because I know I am going against the popular opinion on this one, but she bugs the crap out of me. So I'm hoping she doesn't screw up what could've been a great movie.
3) The more important question in my mind is - who will play the Texan?!?!

If you've read this book - let me know your thoughts!

- e

7 comments:

elbatoast said...

Hi, I recently came across your blog and find it to be quite a good read.

I'm in the market for a new book to read and, based on your comments, I think I'll pick up Eat, Pray and Love.

dy said...

please, do not encourage my husband. he has a slew of 'expressions' he will be happy to share with you...

Karina said...

I read this book WAY back when it first came out. There was no hype around it, and it just sounded interesting when I read the synopsis. I really loved it. I do agree that at points she goes into her spiritual journey a little too much and needs to move the plot along. The Texan is the reason why I made it through those sections. Have you thought of the one word that describes you? My friends went to a book signing with her a couple months ago and her "word" changed (from the one in the book). Unfortunately, I can't remember what it changed to. :) Lastly, (and sorry for the long comment) I don't know if you've ever checked out www.librarything.com. It's a pretty cool site that allows you to create a 'bookshelf' of the books you own and catalog them. There are ways to connect it to blogs so people can see what you like to read and you can write book reviews and link them to the book through there. Just a thought!

e said...

Elbatoast - Thanks for the nice comment - I hope you like the book!

dy - I am braced for new Texan phrases involving mullets...

Karina - I will definitely check out that site. It sounds a lot easier than my spreadsheet that I attempt to update with the books I've read, but always fail to keep current. That is VERY cool that you got to go to the book signing - perhaps somewhere online I can find out her new word (I thought the one she chose was too obscure, anyway). When I was reading it I tried to think about what my word would be, but then since I have no memory, I promptly forgot about that concept after I was done with the book. Now I will make a note to figure it out!

- e

Anonymous said...

Hey e,

My book club read "Eat, Pray, Love" a few months ago. Most of us liked it, but a few of us had some issues, similar to yours. My favorite part was Italy, namely because I've been there and was into reliving the amazing food (she did a good job of with this aspect, especially the part about the pizza). I was totally bored with the India part--way to spiritual for me--sorry! Anyways, love your posts. Keep 'em up! Can't wait for LOST to come back!!!

Signed,

another e

Anonymous said...

e,

Oops, I'm so lame. I forgot. The reason for my earlier post was to back you up about Julia Roberts! This is a horrible casting choice, indeed! I totally agree with you that J.R. is not right for this role, and I also am down with your being down on J.R. I can't stand her, either.

My husband always says that her mouth is so big it looks like she cold swallow her own face! Okay, that's kind of mean. But really, I've never been that impressed with her acting, aside from "Erin Brockovich." I always feel like I'm just watching Julia Roberts in a movie--I never feel like she is capturing the essence of the character she is playing. And I hate this because I can't get into a movie when I feel like the actor is acting. Know what I mean?

Signed,

another e

Louisa said...

Elizabeth has a lot of class, so she wanted the person in the movie to represent her to have class. Not some bimbo who is not a real acting professional. Louisa