I am probably the last person on this planet to read this book. I didn’t read this when it first came out because a book that is partly about someone staying at an ashram sounded extremely boring to me. Plus, I am not that into non-fiction.
I think now it’s a blessing I didn’t read it then, because I would definitely not have liked the book. I just wasn’t ready for it. I can’t in all honesty say I love this book now either, but I can and did appreciate parts of it.
How I Came to Read This Book
I ended up reading this book for the following reasons:
- I read and loved The Signature of all Things by the same author Elizabeth Gilbert
- I was chit-chatting books with a few friends of mine and they were discussing this book. When I said I hadn’t read it, their reaction was dumbfounded shock. But, but, you are the book blogger, one friend spluttered, how could you not have read this book? And so on and so forth. So, after that reaction, the first thing I did was check out this book from my library and read it as soon as possible.
What’s the Book About?
At the age of thirty-one, Gilbert moved with her husband to the suburbs of New York and began trying to get pregnant, only to realize that she wanted neither a child nor a husband. Three years later, after a protracted divorce, she embarked on a yearlong trip of recovery, with three main stops:
- Rome – for gustatory pleasure,
- An ashram outside of Mumbai – for spiritual healing, and
- Bali – for balancing, and as it turns out eventually love.
This is the story of her journey and her learning as she grows into herself.
It’s hard to objectively review this book. On the one hand, it’s very well-written and very meaningful. On the other hand, it was a bit too deep a look into the heart and mind of Elizabeth Gilbert, and there were moments when I had enough. I couldn’t stand her frequent bouts of indulgent self-pity, which alternates with (especially during the India chapters) bits and pieces of her acquired wisdom that she shares with us.
You see where I am going with this, right? I couldn’t relate (at least not much) to the person that she was, and was trying to be. And it’s hard to be objective in a review where the main person in the book is not relatable.
Another aspect of the book that didn’t sit well with me was that she didn’t seem to face any kind of practical problem at all during her travel (coming to this point again in the next section of the review).
However, I loved the Italy sections of the book. Italian food is my favorite cuisine, and I really enjoyed reading about all her foodie adventures in Rome. The Indian section of the book was a bit of a drag. I liked how she was progressing as a character, but like I suspected earlier, it is boring to read about somebody meditating in an ashram, not much scope for entertainment there.
Once Gilbert moves to Indonesia, the book picks up again. There is a little love, a little self-discovery and more interesting characters. More characters was definitely important to me, because it was getting a little claustrophobic just reading about Gilbert and her meditating friends in an ashram. A change of scene was much desired. It was just nice after the austerity of the ashram to see some regular people having a good time.
So far, I’ve spoken about what I didn’t like about the book, but there was plenty to like and think about as well. It’s one of those books where the wisdom comes to you slowly a little at a time, and I know this book will stay in my mind for many years.
I particularly liked this one quote from the book:
I think it’s a wonderful and true thought, and it’s something we all need to keep in mind.
My Misgivings About the Book
It’s evident right from the beginning of the book, that Gilbert had a book idea in mind before embarking on this journey. She even got a hefty advance from her publisher that enabled her to travel the whole year.
So, this is where I have an issue with the book. While the book is excellent, knowing that she planned to document her year (and publish it, that’s the important part) makes the book seem less authentic than I would like.
What would have happened say, if she didn’t receive kundalini shakti during her meditation? What if the experience wasn’t noteworthy? Did she buy a house in Bali for Wayan to help her? Or because it makes a good story?
I am not saying she is not being honest, it just didn’t read that way to me when I knew that she was experiencing this life in order to write about it later. It’s like me (not that I am comparing myself to her) making sure I celebrate my birthday with a lot of joy because I know I’m going to blog about it later (something I’ve been known to do on occasion >.< ) . What about you? Did you like this book? Have you seen the movie? I saw the trailer after reading the book, and I am thinking I might actually like the movie more (definitely for the scenic beauty at least).
You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon