When Eat Pray Love came out, it was almost an instant success. I remember it being one of the first books my book club ever read. I read it along with every one else, but I also wanted to find out what all the hype was about. I read the book and just didn’t get it. I’m not a fan of memoirs, though I’ve read a bunch. At the time, I just couldn’t understand why she needed to go on this journey, and couldn’t connect to any of the feelings she had. Overall, I felt the book was self-indulgent. I couldn’t imagine walking away from life, leaving it all behind, in search of self-discovery. And there was incredible privilege that Gilbert had, not everyone can step away from life and afford an around the world trip.
After reading the book, I dismissed it, though its popularity continued to grow. I did watch the movie – and actually really loved it. There was something Julia Roberts did to the character that made her endearing, and I think I understood Elizabeth’s quest a little more. The popularity of the book is not just because of Elizabeth’s story, it’s because of this incredible trip that she went on, which turned out to be a transformation.
After seeing Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It at the library, I knew I had to read it. It’s a collection of short stories, testimonials, women sharing their experiences with the book, and how the book changed their lives. From traveling around the world, leaving bad relationships, going to back to school, embarking on a new career, each women shares a personal story, and how their lives were changed after reading the book. They were really inspired by Gilbert. I can’t say that I was similarly inspired, but having read their tales, I can connect to the original book in a way that I hadn’t before.
Gilbert herself wrote the book’s foreward, which ties together these individual stories of love, adventure, and self-discovery. She describes her surprise of the book’s popularity, and some experiences she had while meeting some of the book’s fans.
“Both had stepped out of their tired old selves – from one moment to the next – and walked forward into completely new lives. And Eat Pray Love, incredibly, had helped them do that. This is what my book is really about. It was never really about eating pizza in Italy or meditating in India or falling in love in Bali. It wasn’t about travel or spirituality or divorce. No, Eat Pray Love was about what happens when one human being realizes that her life doesn’t have to look like this anymore – that everything (including herself) can be changed. After that realization occurs, nothing will ever be the same again.”
There are stories of moving on, moving out, and exploration, and I liked it so much more than the original. It also gave me a great appreciation for the original book. I think I finally get it now.