This Girl’s Life: Eat, Pray, Love is the Best Book This Man Has Read All Year

February 22nd, 2006 by Larry Smith

LizG-BN.JPG [This review includes two excerpts from Eat, Pray, Love, courtesy of Ms. Gilbert. See the author on tour across America over the next few months.]

I liked Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert so much that I recently had no choice but to give away my advance copy before I had actually finished it.

I was sitting in the formal dining room of a Scottish castle with seven other men and three delightfully batty British women of a certain age. Wine flowed, haggis was served, and the conversation among a roomful of people who barely knew each other roared on with each course.

At one point, Penny, seated to my left, told me a tough time she had gone through after her husband died at an age too young. At first, she went down hard. “But I soon realized I had two choices,” she told me. “I could either sink or swim.” From my perch, Penny took the gold in the Olympic freestyle, and plans to “age disgracefully” (British for: have a ball). The next day was her birthday and though I had 35 pages left of the book that had been blowing me away bead by bead (as the author calls each chapter), I had to give my new friend Penny my copy of Eat, Pray, Love.

Like Penny, when Elizabeth Gilbert’s marriage fell to pieces, her life took a nosedive. Personally smacked down by life like a bowling pin heading toward the gutter (fans of The Big Lebowski, that last one-metaphor-too-many was for you), she bailed from an A+ professional life and hit the road. She spent four months in Rome eating, four months in India praying, and … well, you see where this is going.

Admittedly, I’m a pushover for any story that starts in Italy and involves gelato before breakfast. Ever since the summer I lived in Florence at the ripe old age of 19, selling gloves and purses and what we billed as “snake-skinned” key chains to tourists (my Florentine accent was so bad my boss told everyone I was from Sicily), I’ve been a sucker for all things Italian. And I love yoga (despite a hand-eye coordination problem obvious to all who know me). Also, I’ve always wanted to meet a medicine man (preferably a Balinese one, of course). And it’s hard to argue with finding love.

On a personal level, I adore Liz, even though I more or less know her through her non-fiction stories and our years of email exchanges in which she turned down my numerous offers to pay her lots of money to write articles for whatever magazine I was working at at the time.

Above all, she has ability to put words down on paper with a language, sensibility, point of view — “vibe” is what it really all adds up to — that resonates deeply with me. I laughed my ass off regularly as I inhaled Eat, Pray, Love, but there were times when it all got so intense that I did something I don’t remember ever doing in my more than three decades of moving my eyes across the page: I had to stop reading. Could be that my own life is just so rattled right now (starting a magazine, planning a wedding, making a living) that I couldn’t handle watching Liz’s rattle by. Could be. Mainly, I think this book just blows a man away.

That’s right, “a man.” The subtitle is “One woman’s search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia.” Part of me is thrilled that this book has an Oprah-esque, smart self-help scent (translation: monster hit). Part of me is bummed that a lot of guys won’t pick up a book with the word “woman” on its cover.

So who is this book for? Italiophiles, yogis, meditators, medicine-man lovers, spiritual seekers, storytellers, travel junkies, anyone who has ever had a bad breakup, bad year, or bad day. Also, for those in this world that have always wanted to read a couple pages on the perfect pizza (found in Naples; page 79 in case you’re wandering a bookstore with a hankering for pizza), that — to borrow a phrase from the author, — is so well written that you “want to applaud.”

Click here for the Elizabeth Gilbert world tour dates and info.

Keep reading for two excerpts from Eat, Pray, Love, courtesy of Ms. Gilbert. First, we find our heroine at a soccer game in Rome. In the second excerpt, the author arrives in Bali, without really understanding what “arriving in Bali” actually entails.

Ci Vediamo, Alligator!

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