WASHINGTON, DC, April 30, 2013- I resisted reading this book for the longest time. I still haven’t watched the movie. It’s strange how books sometimes come to you when you are receptive. Had I started this book two years ago, I probably wouldn’t have made it through the first section. In this autobiographical book, Elizabeth is in her mid-thirties and going through a terrible divorce from her estranged husband and a pretty bad break up with her boyfriend. She decides to travel for a year, dividing her time between Italy, India, and Indonesia.
During the year and through her travels, Gilbert finds her physical, emotional and spiritual center as each section of her trip provides her with numerous planned and unplanned learning experiences.
I was reticent to read this book, thinking it would be too esoteric for me, but it wasn’t. I especially loved Gilbert’s description of her four months in Rome, for obvious reasons. I lived in Rome for a year in 2002, coincidentally very close to where Gilbert stayed. This part of the book brought great memories of my neighborhood by Piazza del Popolo and other wonderful little places around the city. I also appreciated how Gilbert described her stay in Italy mostly in terms of food, since that’s the way I remember my travels.
Even though I liked the other two parts of the book, I liked but did not love them. I thought the ending was predictable. Enough said, since I don’t want to give anything away to those who haven’t read the book.
I enjoyed Gilbert’s writing style and loved the humor in the book. I also found many parts of her spiritual journey touching and relatable. Many of the people she met along the way were memorable and her interactions with them moving.
I was especially drawn to her relationship with Wayan in Indonesia. Coming from a third world country but living in the US for almost 16 years, I often have similar experiences with loved ones. I wish, however, that I could say that I handled it with the same grace and wisdom that Gilbert did.
I think that her way of handling such difficult and mixed feelings when someone you love and have done something nice for reacts in a selfish way is another facet of Gilbert’s spiritual growth and maturity. Of course, the fact that Felipe was there to explain Wayan’s motivations in such a generous way probably went very far in helping Gilbert not to take anything too personally. Perhaps since it was not her culture, it was easier for Gilbert to understand and forgive than it is to me because it is my culture.
All in all, however, I enjoyed the book, but enjoyed Gilbert’s wit and writing style even more. Some may have found her self-centered—just take a look at some of the Goodreads reviews, –but aren’t all writers self-absorbed?
If you liked this Book, I recommend:
- Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes
- Dreams of Joy, Lisa See