Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat Pray Love

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Eat Pray Love Summary

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Eat Pray Love, subtitled “One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia,” is a 2006 memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert is a writer by trade; she worked at GQ for five years and had already published two novels (Stern Men and The Last American Man) when Eat Pray Love was written. The occasion for the memoir is Gilbert’s search for self in the wake of her divorce. After a very difficult legal settlement, a toxic affair and bought of severe depression, Gilbert decides to take a year to travel because she finally feels justified in doing something that she wants to do. She muses that she has chosen to visit three places that begin with “I”, which is a metaphor for what she hopes to find by the end of her journey: a sense of self, or independence. Gilbert states in the Introduction that she has modelled the structure of her book on Indian prayer beads called japa malas. There are 108 beads strung together, which holds a special significance in that it is a three-digit multiple of three. As such, Eat Pray Love is divided into three main sections, each composed of 36 smaller parts (the number 36 is also significant because Gilbert is 36 at the time she writes the Introduction), or “beads” as Gilbert refers to them.

The book opens with Liz already in Italy wishing that her friend Giovanni would kiss her, even though she has made a vow of celibacy to herself. The memoir doesn’t necessary unfold in chronological order, often flashing between Liz’s “present” travels and past memories in which she discusses her divorce, her relationship with a younger man (David) and other important events. Though she does not go into explicit detail about many of the reasons she chose to end her marriage, Gilbert does mention that she does not want to have children, even though she and her husband had agreed they would start trying to get pregnant after she turned 30. She stays up one night sobbing in the bathroom, realizing not only that she doesn’t want to be a mother, but also that she does not want to be married anymore. She is only comforted by a voice telling her to go back to bed. Gilbert understands this voice to be her own interior voice, and yet also thinks of it as having some kind of divine significance and understanding. She uses this instance to explain her faith in God, even though she does not consider herself to adhere to any particular dogmatic principles.

The end of Gilbert’s marriage is long and drawn out since her husband refuses to settle, and animosity grows between them. Liz feels guilty for the breakup, but also throws herself directly into another unhealthy relationship, eroding her self-confidence and individuality. She tells another story of visiting Bali years before for a magazine article, where she was invited to meet a local medicine man. She is invited to ask the man one question. She asks how she can achieve a life in which she is able to experience both worldly pleasures and achieve a lasting experience of God. The man responds by drawing her picture of a human figure with four legs, a face on its heart and plants growing out of its head. He explains that she must stay grounded, and look at the world through her heart. He also reads her palm and predicts that she will have one chid, that she will lose all of her money, but get it back almost immediately and that she will come back to Bali. This experience has lasting significance for Gilbert and she uses this prediction in planning out her trip. She chooses to go to Italy to experience pleasure, India for spirituality and Bali to balance those two ideals.  The book ends as Liz falls in love again, both with herself and with a Brazilian man named Felipe.