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Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
By Elizabeth Gilbert
ISBN: 0670034711
Review by: Kim Wells


To Teach and Delight. This is a critical movement that I learned during my days as an English undergraduate. Critical theorists from days long gone by have advocated the purpose of literature (usually called poetry, but they meant creative writing of all kinds) as a form designed to teach us at the same time it gives pleasure.

I picked up this memoir/travel-diary/spiritual quest book on a day when I was treating myself to lunch at a very nice Italian restaurant, out without family, sitting at the comfy bar having pasta and soup and pelligrino and tiramisu. It was funny that the first travel section of Gilbert's book takes place in Italy, because here I was, surrounded by the scent of delicious Italian food. When I went into the bathroom, I could hear Italian language tapes playing over the sound system in there.

Gilbert is also known as the woman who wrote the short story that turned into the movie Coyote Ugly. This work (I can't call it a novel, because it's non-fiction, but I don't want to simply call it a memoir either) is the account of her life partly during and then following a painful divorce. Her quest for happiness includes a trip to Italy, one to India, and then to Indonesia.

I enjoyed the creative structure of the memoir, as well as the way she turns her fictional methods to her autobiographical quest. I also enjoyed the details she brought to each section; I could taste the pizza, smell the coffee, feel the joy at spiritual seeking, smell the flowers. I was very interested in the slight touch of non-fiction informative reading about such diverse topics as Yoga, and the very breif forays into Italian language history, and other non-fiction touches that made the memoir a pleasantly informative foray.

I have to admit that I wasn't too fond of the ending. I won't give it away, and it's not a bad ending. And though I totally hate it when someone critiques the work that it "could have been" instead of the work that is there, I have to say that I wanted something slightly different at the end. I get it-- it's the way her life worked, and to go elsewhere might have seemed dishonest. But perhaps stopping with a little ambiguity, for me, would have been more interesting. I didn't want everything wrapped up. But probably, that's the way the story "felt right."

But nevertheless, I highly recommend this memoir/travelouge/spiritual guidequest. Although I do not often read nonfiction, I will pick up another book in the future by Gilbert, and hope to be pleasantly entertained at the same time I am educated.

On her website, I noticed that the book will be turned into a movie, which I will most likely have to see. I just hope they cast the cute Italian twins correctly.

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