Eat, Pray, Love Book Review

“I wish Giovanni would kiss me.” – opening line to Eat, Pray, Love.

I read this line, and this line only, to my wife and, her spur-of-the-moment reaction was that she wanted to read more.  It is a compelling start, and from just this little clip, it did not surprise her that so many women have enjoyed this book.

But I am a man.

Last weekend, I was camping with some friends at Metzler Park in Oregon when Angela brought up Eat Pray Love. So having recently read the book, I started to share my perspective. That was when Angela’s shocked husband Don demanded that I hand over my man card!

Yes, I am a man. And I read and enjoyed Eat Pray Love.

And you ask, What made me read this book in this first place?

Back in July, my 19-year-old daughter, Chelsea, told me that I should read this book and then see the movie and then review both for my blog. That sounded like a good idea to me. Hey, the book is popular! So despite my maleness, I figured that a review of Eat Pray Love would help my blog to keep growing, so I read the book and went to the movie – with my wife! (My wife didn’t care about my threatened man card. Hey, it was a date!)

Recently, I was at my Division Street Starbucks, when the three ladies ahead of me picked up the sound track for Eat Pray Love the movie, then said to each other that they had heard that this was a good movie and a good book. I couldn’t help myself. I spoke up and briefly affirmed that, yes, Eat Pray Love the book was a good read… Surprised, they proceeded to look at me suspiciously…I think they were wondering if I even had a man card.

Back in July, after following my daughter Chelsea’s suggestion, buying this book, and getting it home, I discovered that it was about someone traveling to Italy, India and Indonesia (one section per country). That actually didn’t sound so bad. I was then prepared to enjoy it. I love to travel. One of my favorite TV shows is Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I love Anthony’s wit and orneriness. That, plus the cool places he travels to, inspire me to want to go those places myself.  So, a book that includes traveling to Italy and has EAT in the title sounded good to me.

What I found as I read Eat Pray Love was honest, interesting writing that appealed to me, even if I am a man. I liked Liz Gilbert’s “voice,” her travels, the food…

But mostly, I was taken in by her emotional journey from pain to healing.

I have heard others complain that, to them, the emotional pain in this book sounded like whining…and I have heard others say with sarcastic derision – “Oh, my life is hard! I need to take a year off  and travel overseas, too!” And I have quietly thought, “Maybe you do need to take a year off and pursue some healing…rather than mock her journey and her taking a year to travel and grow, maybe you could celebrate that the author had the guts to go for something so audacious and actually be able to make it happen.

I am reminded of a quote in a quirky book titled Ministry of Healing that talks about those who accomplish little because they attempt little (page 498).

A paragraph on Page 7 of my edition of Eat Pray Love says, “…I am a professional American woman who has just come through a failed marriage and a devastating divorce, followed immediately by a passionate love affair that ended in sickening heartbreak.  This loss upon loss has left me feeling sad and brittle and about seven thousand years old.”

Those angstful words spoke to me.

When I read that paragraph, I did not hear whining, I heard real pain. Liz’s pain put me in touch with my own pain – the pain of having lived in a broken, painful marriage, the pain of planting three churches and having the third one fail and die, the pain of feeling totally disconnected from and disappointed in the religion I had been around from third grade on.

I have experienced some healing from my pain, and I wanted Liz to heal from hers. I truly wanted to join her on the journey to see what happened next.

I connected with the idea of being lonely and longing for healing and wholerness, with someone who struggles with getting comfort (relief) from inappropriate or unhelpful places.

“I have finally arrived at the age where a woman starts to question whether the wisest way to get over the loss of one beautiful brown-eyed young man is indeed to promptly invite another one into her bed,” I read on Page 7.

It is so much easier to simply self medicate than it is to squarely and honestly face the pain we are in and own it, and feel it, and seek wholerness. ( Yes, I spelled that right — “wholerness.” It is my conviction and teaching that you are better off pursuing wholerness than wholeness.)

As I said, this book is primarily divided into three sections: Italy, India and Indonesia. If I have to pick and choose, my favorite section was Italy, probably because of the amazing Italian food.

My least favorite section was India. It did not resonate with me as much as the rest of the book, and I think the reason was that, while in India, Liz “prayed” and explored spirituality. The brand of spirituality she was exploring was, more or less, Hinduism, and it was very different from the primary brand of spirituality I grew up with.  Wikipedia.org Hinduism

My own spirituality is (thankfully) not what it was. The spirituality I grew up with was Christianity, and my spirituality was, and still is (believe it or not), based on the Bible.

I know some people who have had a spiritual background similar to mine based on the Bible who later in their journey have found Hindu-based spirituality to be very interesting. My grandmother exposed me to quite a bit of Hinduism when I was young, and I have some basic knowledge of that perspective.  However, in my journey, I have found that it’s just not my preferred cup of tea.

Though Section 2 as a whole was not my favorite, I have to say that my favorite character in Eat Pray Love the book does appear in Section 2 – Richard from Texas. His quips and perspectives made very enjoyable reading.

If you have a spiritual background simliar to mine and while reading Eat Pray and Love you have a tough time with Section 2, you can always skip to Section 3 and still make this an enjoyable read! A long time ago, I heard a wise teacher named Jack say that he did not expect to agree with every page of every book he read. In fact, Jack went on to say that “if there are pages in a book that really bother you, pull them out and use those offensives pages for the parakeet’s cage.”

Even as a man, I enjoyed Eat Pray Love, and if you enjoy biographies, you might want to check it out.

For more info on Elizabeth Gilbert check out her website www.elizabethgilbert.com

To see my review of Eat Pray Love the Movie please click here – stevenshomler.com/eat-pray-love-movie-review

My book review of Eat Pray Love ends here… below is some additional material you can read for extra credit! 🙂

The content below has more about my perspectives that a traditional book review would have, however if you find my perspectives to be interesting…By all means read on!

Some of what I liked best in this book (and the thoughts it stirred in me)

From Page 14 – “When the question is raised, What kind of God do you believe in ?’ My answer is easy: ‘ I believe in a magnificent God” ‘ While I may embrace a different spirituality than Liz Gilbert, I very much agree with the sentiment of this quote. I wish more people had that kind of answer in their heart, when asked about God.

Page 17 –  “If you really want to know someone, you have to divorce him.” This quote reminded me of phrase in the very old book As a Man Thinketh – “Circumstances do not make the man. They reveal him.”

Page 35, the beginning of Chapter 10 – “A few weeks later, I am living in Italy.” Liz makes it to Italy! An awesome inspiring victory! I felt that way when I finally  I got my family to Disneyland in May of 2009.

Pages 44-46 – If you want to know the secret origin of the Italian language, read these pages.

Page 61 – ” ‘Il bel far niente’ means ‘the beauty of doing nothing’…The beauty of doing nothing is the goal of all of your work, the final accomplishment for which you are highly congratulated. The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement.”

Sadly, my kids were 8, 10, and 12 before we took them on a non-work-related family vacation, and I was 15 years into my second marriage before my wife and I took a week-long vacation, just the two of us, to simply rest. A few years ago, I would have read the above quote found on Page 61 with disdain. Thank the good Lord that workaholics can experience at least some recovery!

Page 64 – Starts a discussion Liz has with herself on sex that begins – “One obvious topic still needs to be addressed concerning my whole pursuit of pleasure thing in Italy: What about sex?”

This discussion ends on Page 65 with this statement- “…never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfullfilled yearnings.”

These pages remind me of an excellent book in my library – Unhooked : How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both by Laura Sessions Stepp. You may want to check it out if you struggle with this issue.

I know many women (and men) who would do well to ruminate on the words and perspectives shared on Pages 64 and 65.

Page 74 – Talking about a lunch eaten in the Traveste neighborhood in Rome –  “…and then a small roast chicken, which I end up sharing with the stray dog who has been watching me eat my lunch the way only a stray dog can.” Great writing.

Page 82 …”Nobody (on the outside), especially not the children, ever knows the secrets of a marriage.” If you are or ever have been married, you get this.

Page 87 – Have you ever had someone try to comfort you (i.e tell you that the pain will pass) when you are dealing with something very painful? Check out this cool experience that Liz has-

” ‘It’s about a love story, Giovanni. I had to say good bye to someone today.’…Then my hands are slapped over my eyes again, tears spraying through my clamped fingers. Bless his heart, Giovanni doesn’t try to put a reassurring arm around me, nor does he express the slightest discomfort, about my explosion of sadness. Instead, he just sits through my tears in silence, until I’ve calmed down. At which point he speaks with perfect empathy…saying slowly and clearly and kindly: ‘I understand, Liz. I have been there.’ ”

In the “book” of Romans chapter 12 verse 15, Paul instructs the believers in Jesus who live in Rome to “Mourn with those who mourn.” Trust me, that can be an emotionally taxing experience. It is so much easier to briefly “comfort” those who mourn and move on. In the MESSAGE version of the Bible Romans 12:15 reads, “Laugh with your happy friends when they are happy; share tears when they’re down.”

Just to be clear, nowhere in the Bible are those who follow Jesus  instructed to “comfort” those who mourn…Something to think about.

Page 157 –  ” ‘ There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? And Who’s in Charge?’ Everything else is somehow manageable. But these two questions of love and control undo us all, trip us up and cause war, grief and suffering.”

Page 183 – Great quote on divorce – “” ‘ I see marriage as an operation that sews two people together, and  divorce is a kind of amputation that takes a long time to heal. The longer you were married, or the rougher the amputation, the harder it is to recover.’ ”

Page 189 –  Amusing counsel from Richard from Texas – “Remember what they say- sometimes the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” Terrible counsel, however great turn of a phrase that made me laugh out loud.

Page 201 – You know that you have experienced some healing when you can follow Liz’s example:   “I can sit in my own company for hours at a time now, at ease in my own presence…” I am still very grateful for the time I spent with Bryan Van Dragt in my mid-20s. It was while going through counseling with him that I began to learn to be comfortable with my own presence.

Pages 205 – 208 contains an interesting discussion on religion that has these two wistful phrases –

#1 “What I am seeing in some of my friends, though, as they are aging, is a longing to to have something to believe in.”

#2 “I have a dear friend whose first child was born right after his beloved mother died. After this confluence of miracle and loss, my friend felt a desire to have some kind of sacred place to go, or some ritual to perform, in order to sort through all of the emotion. My friend was a Catholic by upbringing, but could not stomach returning to the church as an adult. (‘I can’t buy it anymore’ he said, ‘knowing what I know.’) ”

My pastoral heart wishes that those people could have the option to consider the magnificent faith I have arrived at. Not a faith based on a religion or a church,  but based on Jesus my Savior, Friend and Lord, the Jesus found in the biblical books of Matthew, Mark Luke and John, etc.

For those who don’t know,  my journey has been that I gave up Christianity to follow  Jesus ( to be clear -The Jesus I follow is found in the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, etc.) and for me it has been very good news to come to know that you do not have to say “yes” to Christianity (or Catholicism, or Baptism, or Adventism, to name a few Christian brands) when saying “yes” to Jesus.

I know that it sounds awful to some of you that I gave up Christianity to follow Jesus, however, it could be worse. I have seen those who have given up Jesus to follow either Christianity or one of the its varous tribes (like Catholicism, or Baptism, or Adventism).

Please hear me -If you have found great blessing being a part of the tribe of Catholicism, or Baptism, or Adventism, count yourself blessed and know that I mean you no offense. Also please know that I have personally met many people who sadly avoid the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John etc. because of negative experiences they have had with one of the many Christian tribes. Those people very often find it liberating to hear that they can say “yes” to Jesus, without having to say “yes” to the Christian tribe they are leery of.

Some of you may be asking -“So if you do not go around telling people that you are a Christian, what do you tell people you are?”  Glad you asked! I tell people who ask that I practice an Ancient Way Warming Fire faith. That is, I strive to follow the Ancient Way of Jesus and I long to have my faith in Jesus be like a Warming Fire, like a camp fire on a beach. for more on this go to www.warmingfirefaith.com Okay enough preaching – Back to Eat Pray Love!

Pages 225 – 229 shares a very interesting description of Balinese culture.

Page 283 – “He liked my body, he told me after the initial viewing at the beach. He told me that the Brazilians have a term for exactly my kind of body (of course they do), which is magra-falsa, translating as ‘fake thin’ meaning that the woman looks slender enough from a distance, but when you get up close, you can see that she is actually quite round and fleshy, which Brazilians consider a good thing.” I like how those Brazilians think, just ask my wife!

Page 286 – “At one time in history, if a man had been my suitor, my father might have sat that man down with a long list of questions…’How will you provide for my daughter? What is your reputation in this community? How is your health? Where will you take her to live? What are your debts and your assets? What are the strengths of your character?…I have no nostalgia for the patriarchy, please believe me. But what I have come to realize is that, when that patriarchic system was (rightfully) dismantled, it was not necessarily replaced by another form of protection. What I mean is–I never thought to ask a suitor the same challenging questions my father might have asked him, in a different age.”

Those words made me wonder what questions I have taught and am teaching my daughters to ask potential suitors they might consider marrying.

Page 295 – “Felipe is also the endearment master. In bed he slips into adoring me in Portuguese, so I have graduated from being his “lovely little darling” to being his queridinha. (Literal translation: “lovely little darling.”) I’ve been too lazy here in Bali to try to learn Indonesian or Balinese, but suddenly Portuguese is coming easily to me. Of course I’m only learning the pillow talk, but that’s a fine use of Portuguese. He says, ‘Darling, you’re going to get sick of it. You’re going to get bored of how much I touch you, and how many times a day I tell you how beautiful you are.’ …Try me mister.”

When working with men, and addressing issues in their marriages, I have found it to be very important to talk to a man about whether or not he likes his wife. In the past year, a dawning realization has come to me. Women want to be cherished. If you read Eat Pray Love, you’ll come to realize in Section 3 that Liz felt cherished by Felipe. That is a wonderful thing that I would encourage all husbands to strive for – to have their wives feel cherished.

This post was written to the Soundtrack of Eat Pray Love the Movie.

Steven Shomler

z/z

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One Response to Eat, Pray, Love Book Review

  1. Gayla Shomler says:

    I loved this post! I’m reading the book now!

    Just a thought about Section 2: INDIA – Something I appreciate about the fact that Liz is exploring the world through a different religious lense than my own is that it helps me see more clearly what I have in common with all people no matter what their religious bent.

    That commonality helps me focus on what REALLY MATTERS in my own spiritual experience. I too have pain and unfulfilled yearnings and am tempted to fill them in unhelpful ways; I too struggle with issues of love and control; I too do best when I’m in a place where I’m comfortable with my own presence.

    Too often “religion” gets filled up with distracting non-core issues. My deepest heart moments with GOD come when my spiritual focus centers on that stuff we all wrestle with.

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