Book Club Meeting for Eat, Pray, Love: Wrap-Up

A few Books on the Brain readers, including Danica, Gentle Reader, Tara, and others, some of whom left comments HERE and HERE and HERE, asked if I would post about the Eat, Pray, Love discussion at my book club meeting.  We had an excellent meeting, with 8 of our 12 members attending.  The food was great.. mini pizzas from Trader Joes, a big pasta salad, homemade calzones, wine and chocolate.  Mmmmm.  

We started off the discussion by asking what was each person’s favorite part of the book.  Our hostess, who is relatively new to the group, said the cutest thing.  Her favorite part was when the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, was at the ashram in India and talked about wanting to be The Quiet Girl In The Back Of The Room, because every time she leaves a book club meeting, she feels like she’s talked too much, and she wanted us all to know that she doesn’t think her opinions and comments are any more important than any of ours, and she wanted to apologize if anyone felt she went on and on too much, and she just really likes to talk, and she loves the book club, and and and..  finally her sister said, “Ok!  We get it!  You can stop talking now!”  We all had a good laugh.

Everyone liked certain aspects of the book.  We agreed that Gilbert is talented and that the book was well written.  One member, who I know didn’t really care for the book, said good things about it before she went on her rant about “paying for Gilbert’s therapy by buying this book”.  A couple of us were critical of the India section and the “fake God moment” when she declares she is one with God and actually IS God.  We all thought there were a few coincidences that were probably mostly BS and just thrown in because she was writing a book.. like when she was praying about her nephew and his nightmares and learned later they had abruptly stopped at the same time.. or when she wrote a letter to God about finalizing her divorce, and then suddenly she gets the call that her husband finally signed the papers.  

Many of us thought she could have filled us (the reader) in a bit more about why her divorce was so horrible.. to me it was hard to work up any real sympathy for her because she doesn’t say why it was so awful, so so so hard, really really hard (WHY?)  Divorce sucks, but in the big scheme of things.. it’s not like having cancer or losing a child or whatever.  We all thought she needed some perspective.  If the worst thing that ever happens to you is something that really isn’t all that horrible, it’s still the worst thing ever TO YOU.  But stop trying to convince me (without actually TELLING me) that it was SO BAD, so horrible and hard.  On a funny side note, Liz Gilbert has now married her Brazilian lover Felipe, who she met in Bali, and her next book is about marriage.  BWAAHHAAHAHAHAHA!

 Anyway.   Overall I’d say the book was liked more than disliked.  I asked members to give me a “wrap up” of what they thought and got a few responses.  Here they are:

From TD:  EPL was a well-written, somewhat comical memoir of Gilbert’s travels and search for spiritualism and balance.  As the book progressed, I could see that she changed from a self-absorbed needy woman to a more self-controlled, happier person.

I would rate it 3.5.

From DD: Rating: ***

In total, I did not hate or love the book.  I could not relate to Gilbert’s depression, so I had little sympathy while reading about her divorce trauma.  If all of her whining was removed from the book, I would’ve liked the book better.  Gilbert is a good writer and has a fun way of describing her adventures in all three countries.  I came away learning a little about Italian cuisine and language, Indian ashrams and meditation, and the culture of Bali – a plus.  Some of her events were a little contrived and far-fetched, but I guess it was felt that they were needed to “spice up” the book.

From KD: 4*’s

Gilbert’s travels were very educational.  EPL is a wonderful book to read for those who have an open mind about someone who has mental illness. Gilbert wants to get well (without drugs) and find her inner peace. A beautiful book!!!

From EL: I would give it 4 stars.

Elizabeth Gilbert is a witty writer and very easy to read.  I enjoyed reading about her personal journey, as well as the cultures, geography of the places she visits.  She was especially informative about meditation and the ashram in the India section.  Readers will love the book if you can get past two things: 1) she is often whiney and self absorbed, especially about her failed relationship with David (bleh!), and 2) since she is upfront with the reader that the trip (and thus book) was conceived before she began her journey, the reader may often feel like some of the events that she experiences are fake and contrived.  Otherwise, I really did love the book. 

From JT:

I enjoyed it although I was ready to leave India- it got a little long and I felt the author was so self-absorbed on and off throughout.  I enjoyed Italy most of all- I like her writing style and she is very likable and fun.

From SA:  I can’t say I loved or hated this book – my feelings about it fall somewhere in the middle.  On one hand, like many working mothers, I had a bit of a problem relating to the author, her life, and the premise that she “needed” to spend one year away from the States (in order to heal herself and cure her depression).  On the other hand, I did enjoy and appreciate her wit, her obvious intelligence, and her talent as a writer.  While reading the book, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own life, dreams, disappointments, and future goals. I think that was a good side effect of this book, and it is not something I can say about most of our other book-club picks. So, I don’t regret reading it. But I’ll be careful about who I recommended it to in the future.  4 Stars

11 Responses

  1. I tried to read Eat, Pray, Love about a year ago and didn’t even get through the first chapter. Maybe I’ll try it again, but from the sounds of it I probably still won’t like it.

    P.S. Your book club sounds very much like mine. I’m the one who talks way too much and each time before I go I vow to keep my mouth shut. It never works out though … it’s the wine’s fault!

  2. I totally agree with you on the perspective thing and how she thought her divorce was so, so awful. I was reading a lot of (and still am) books about wars, genocide, holocaust, etc. at about the same time I read this and I thought, “Honey, I just can’t sympathize with you. Sorry. ” You brought up some great points and I’m in complete agreement.

  3. LOL Natasha!
    And thank you Lisa… this was very informative 🙂 I experience a lot of coincidences/synchronicity like that in my life, so I don’t know if it would seem contrived to me. But I suspect that if so many people thought that stuff was made up to spice up the book, it didn’t sound authentic to many people, and I have no trouble believing that someone could tweak events or even make them up entirely if they thought it would make their book better.

    I HAAATE when authors tell instead of showing. Seems like it would be particularly important in a book like this to write from the gut and the heart. And I think that writing from the head just always says “I’m not actually engaged in this experience, I’m trying to prove it to you,” to me, which makes spiritual stuff ring really false. Spiritual stuff is like the antithesis of intellectual “telling.” Bleah!

    It does remind me of a book I read a long time ago that I really liked… China Galland’s Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna. It seemed very authentic and heartfelt to me at the time, and like the author was using her brains to check whether she was telling the truth instead of to put one over on the reader. But I wonder what I would think if I read it now.

  4. Wow, I can’t believe Justin Timberlake is in your book club….

    Seriously, your summary of EPL was right on. I thought the same thing about her divorce. I didn’t feel that bad for her because she wouldn’t give a reason why he made her so unhappy. I just wanted a reason… ANYTHING!!

    Not sure why people have a problem though with the plausibility of some of her prayers being answered? I have prayers answered all the time, but even still, her time in India bored me to tears. I would have been happy with her leaving and going ANYWHERE. Even if it was Burbank.

  5. This book is so popular but has never sounded at all appealing to me. Your book club sounds fun, though!

  6. i wish i had a cool book club. the ones i’ve been invovled with in recent years have been filled with jabber-jaws who talk a lot but say little. i guess not everyone can be the quiet but wise girl in the back of the room like me. 😀

  7. I’m still reading EPL – in Bali now. I can understand the mixed response to this book. My own thoughts are mixed as well. I agree about her divorce, that part nearly made me stop reading, but I got interested in the Italy section and just read on. I keep wondering is this book really fiction? Her description of Ketut reminds me of Yoda in Star Wars.

  8. Thanks for this post . . . I love to hear about book clubs.

    For me, the fact that she didn’t talk about her divorce was important. I had just come through one myself – and while I realize it wasn’t the most horrible thing that could happen and that certainly people were suffering a lot – it was absolutely devastating and life-encompassing for me – so I got that in Gilbert. Plus, I know the feeling of now wanting to put your ex’s story on the table out of respect for him but also out of a desire to now relive all that discomfort.

    But I can see how if you didn’t have that life resource to draw from it would be hard to see her experience as genuine.

  9. I want to join your book club! Instead I’m stuck here in the bible belt of the West with a bunch of Jesus fanatics. Bible study groups are easy to find, book groups, not so much, unless the books are part of the “Left Behind” or “Mitford” series.

    Speaking of Jesus, I skipped some of the ridiculous spiritual stuff in Berg’s book, because it made me
    consider committing a mortal sin and taking my own life. Either that, or I would end up overdosing on a proton pump inhibitor in an attempt to stop the gagging and subsequent heartburn that I was experiencing while trying to read about her miraculous God transformation.

  10. Thanks for the terrific wrap up. Great comments here, too. I so want to be in your book club. Do they all know how lucky they are? and now… famous, too!

  11. Thanks for posting this – so interesting to read everyone’s thoughts, especially things I hadn’t thought of myself. My group will be discussing this tomorrow evening….

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