Second on the list of self-help book reviews is a book you may have already heard of – Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert!
All right, so Eat, Pray, Love has been done to death and everyone’s read it, seen the movie or made fun of it. But, in response to my last review featuring Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade, Gilbert’s memoir is a great way of showing that not all life’s major changes will occur in the 20s – they can occur in your 30s too. (although to be fair, Jay did say that most of life’s defining changes would occur before 35 so Gilbert, at 32 back then, would definitely still be in that ballpark area. But still.)
On first sight, Gilbert’s book may seem to be the the antithesis of what Meg Jay advocates - but not really. She goes travelling and exploring, but in a directional, intentional manner (Italy for eating and recovering from a divorce and depression; India for spirituality, and Bali for balance in life and, incidentally, love.
She may have thrown away what seemed like a secure life – her marriage, her financial security, and her home in New York – for a gypsy lifestyle. And she may seem like the cat that lands on its feet – an old Balinese medicine man tells her she will lose all her money only to gain it back again, a prediction which comes true as Gilbert loses most of her finances in a painful drawn-out divorce from her now ex-husband, but is able to finance her soul-searching trip through an advance from her publisher. It might seem like pure blind luck – after all, how many of us wish we could take a gap year off and be paid for it? And yet – it’s not just luck, not really. In a perfect sync from Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade, the reason Gilbert is able to finance her trip is because she has got identity capital. Before she hit 32 and had her life crisis and her year of self-discovery, she spent years putting effort into becoming a published writer and providing quality articles and books. So it would have been a no-brainer for her publisher to take on this particular pitch to write a memoir based on her year-long discovery trip.
I also have a more personal reason for choosing this book for my list – Eat, Pray, Love was a book I read when I was struggling at a certain crossroads in my life around my mid-20s and it gave me the courage to do exactly that – take the road less travelled and less secure – and I would never forget that. Finally, Elizabeth Gilbert really is a great writer and she tells her story in an entertaining and humorous manner with plenty of candid honesty thrown in (to the point of being cringeworthy sometimes – like that story of the night she cooked up lots of potato chips to ward off a certain bout of horniness!) So even if you’re not looking for a book to help improve yourself, Eat, Pray, Love provides a great fun read anyway.