“Eat Pray Love,” a New York Times best seller for over 200 weeks, could have been more aptly titled, “Whine Indulge Repeat.” Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, currently releasing its 10th anniversary edition, is touted as the story of a strong-willed woman who leaves her husband, country home, and successful career because she is unhappy with these outward marks of success. Instead, Gilbert takes the reader on a journey about a whiny, self-indulgent thirty-something on a quest for self-awareness. It is challenging to believe that most women in the midst of a heart rending divorce would have the luxury of running off on a one-year sabbatical sweeping three countries. This book is not an inspiration of how to get your life in order, rather kryptonite to the anguished soul.
With over 10 million copies now in print, “Eat Pray Love” has touched millions of lives, likely due to The Oprah Effect, in which products and celebrities that receive her endorsement achieve the greatest heights of popularity and success. In fact, The Oprah Effect is most dramatically obvious in book sales, as evident in Toni Morrison’s success, whose books received a bigger sales boost from Oprah than from winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. This begs the question, “Is “Eat Pray Love” a must read that changes lives, inspiring and empowering millions of readers to search for their own best selves as stated in the author’s own website, or simply a successful marketing campaign, targeting women desperate for a solution to their dismal life?”
Gilbert never specifically reveals what prompted the desertion of her current life or the reason she behaved the way she did, drooling and bawling on the bathroom floor night after night. Perhaps divulging this rationale might help the reader to understand her impetus, while providing some indication why her life was so unbearable. Gilbert claims “We search for happiness everywhere, but we are like Tolstoy’s fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold, under him the whole time. Your treasure, your perfection, is within you already.” This supports her urge to set out on a journey of self-discovery and independence which has inspired many a reader to purchase a plane ticket and get the hell out of dodge. Yet, it also falsely lures the reader to an unrealistic notion that the means to finding yourself lies in traveling the world minus obligations or limitations.
Theresa Thornton, a divorced, single mom says she “absorbed every drop of Elizabeth Gilbert’s life-changing personal journey” in the follow up to “Eat Pray Love” – “Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It.” Post divorce, consumed with financial struggles, her life consisted of her two children and her office job, but her lifelong fantasy was to be a singer. Thornton didn’t quit her job, leave her children behind, and skip town to pursue her dream, choosing instead to attend a full day workshop, geared toward finding your voice. Thornton found her voice as well as a bit of self-awareness while remaining conscious of her financial situation and responsibility for her children’s well-being.
Yet, others take “Eat Pray Love” more literally. Laurie Granieri, says “Gilbert’s own uncertainty keeps me company. “Eat Pray Love” gave me permission to come undone; to every so often ignore an e-mail, skip a workout, take a nap.” This self-centered approach to life is the overriding theme of Gilbert’s book, and one that can be misconstrued.
I didn’t want to destroy anything or anybody. I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland. – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love
While Gilbert takes the concept of “me time” to a whole new level, she simultaneously ignores that our actions have consequences regardless of our wish to not “destroy anything or anybody in the process.” And, her trek for independence falls short when she finds herself involved with a man yet again. She philosophizes about learning to rely on herself, then prattles about the new man that validates her. Furthermore, she never really shares the kind of intrinsic work that results in self-awareness, instead meandering into anecdotes and spiritual tales, yet always ending up in the same place.
According to Psychology Today, self-awareness begins with three steps, the first being Understanding Your Life Story, a step which Gilbert clearly recommends running from at all costs.
How much you confront your life’s challenges, what I call “crucibles,” defines your level
of self-awareness. – Dan McAdams, Psychology Professor at Northwestern University
The second step is Creating a Daily Habit of Self-Reflection, another area Gilbert’s actions show clear contradiction given “this practice enables you to focus on the important things in your life, not just the immediate.” Gilbert dedicates six chapters to meditation, but spends more time whining about her inability to meditate than focusing on the important things in life which include step three, Honest Feedback.
We all have traits that others see, but we are unable to see in ourselves. We call these “blind spots.” You can address these blind spots by receiving honest feedback from people you trust. – Bill George, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School
Gilbert flees as far away from those who truly know her, and are capable of providing this feedback, once more not giving readers a realistic way to confront an unhappy situation, and grow in the process.
There is no doubt “Eat Pray Love” has touched many, but the jury is still out on how many were inspired. While the book has some brilliant moments where the reader can indulge in the author’s delirious connection to food, the human connection leaves a lot to be desired. Gilbert comes across as indifferent to those around her no matter what her circumstances. Though she presents her story as a journey of spirituality it appears to be one of irresponsibility. The moral of the story seems to be selfishness brings happiness, not a motto most of us have the luxury to strive for, and hopefully one we never achieve.
Prompt: What’s a book you’ve read that nobody else should have to read, and why?
Genre: Persuasive Essay
Word Limit: 1,000 words