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

Sunday Salon

Ahhhhh it’s Sunday, and today in Southern California we are expecting record breaking high temperatures for the 2nd day in a row (93 degrees).  It feels like summer.  The kids are in their bathing suits and I’m trying to talk them into washing my car after breakfast.  Later they have a cosmic bowling party with their school, and after that I’m off to my book club meeting to discuss Eat, Pray, Love.  I’ll be leading the discussion tonight, and I know we’ve got people on both sides of the love/hate fence, so I’m a little anxious about it.  It’s funny.. I’ve done a couple blog posts about E,P,L but I have no desire to review it, I guess because I have such mixed emotions about it.  

Last night my neighbor Kierstin set up an outdoor movie theater in her backyard and invited us for a viewing of Star Wars with her kids.  My kids had never seen it so they were really excited.  My husband took them in their pjs, loaded down with chairs, popcorn, blankets, and drinks.  This gave me 2 solid hours by myself to read!! What a gift! (Thanks, Kierstin!)  Having just finished Loose Girl, I was between books, so I spent about half an hour paging through last month’s Oprah magazine, because I just had to know if “my medicine was making me fat” (it’s not-whew!) and what “Oprah’s New Passion” was (a new tv show-whoopee).  I used to subscribe to several mags, but found I wasn’t reading them anymore, so I let the subscriptions lapse.  I must have a lifetime subscription to “O” because it just keeps coming.  

Finally I hesitantly picked up a book I started a couple weeks ago, The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood.  I’d put it aside the first time because it made me cry really early on (page 19!)  It’s about how a woman manages her grief the year after her only daughter dies from meningitis at age 5.  I’d been thinking about the story ever since I put it down, and felt compelled to go back to it.  I’m really glad I did.  It’s not the kind of book that’s sappy and manipulative, trying to get the big emotional reaction.  It’s quiet and gentle and moving.  The mom is going through the motions, just existing, putting one foot in front of the other (barely).  Her mother encourages her to knit as a way to take her mind off her grief.  She meets some people through a knitting store who have their own troubles they are working through.  She joins a knitting circle and starts to care about these people.  I don’t want to give too much away, but it seems to be a tale of how friendship helps her get her life back after her devastating loss.  I flew through the first 100 pages last night and am looking forward to sitting down with this book again later today.

What are you reading this weekend?  Is it something you’d recommend to others? Please leave a note and let me know!

 

Sunday Salon: For Those Who Have Read “Eat, Pray, Love”

The Sunday Salon.com

Ok, so a lot of you who visit me at Books on the Brain participated in the comments section of an earlier post about Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Click HERE if you missed it.  At that time I hadn’t read too much of the book and didn’t really understand the uproar this book has caused.  I’m not sure I totally understand it now that I’m about 2/3rds of the way through either. However, I have a bit of a problem with a certain section of the book, and would love to know if anyone else had a similar problem with it, or would like to comment on it.

While in India, the author has a spiritual episode called a turiya state, something devotees of the Ashram she was staying in aspire to, in which she says she is “suddenly transported through the portal of the universe and taken to the center of God’s palm.” (pg. 198)  She explains, in part, this way:  “I was inside the void, but I also was the void and I was looking at the void, all at the same time.  The void was a place of limitless peace and wisdom.  The void was conscious and it was intelligent.  The void was God, which means that I was inside God.  But not in a gross, physical way-not like I was Liz Gilbert stuck inside a chunk of God’s thigh muscle.  I just was part of God.  In addition to being God.  I was both a tiny piece of the universe and exactly the same size as the universe.”  (pg. 199) 

So, am I to read this as she thinks she was God, for that brief period of time that she was in this altered state?  Seriously?  She and God are one and the same?  

Please, enlighten me, if possible.  Cuz’ I’m having a hard time buying THAT.

 

One Divisive Book!

My book club is reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert this month.  I started it but decided to stop about 75 pages in and pick it up again right before the book club meets in order to have it fresh in my mind when it’s time to discuss it.

As I’m sure you know, Eat, Pray, Love is a memoir of a 30-something woman who, after a messy divorce, takes off in search of answers in three countries:  Italy (eat), India (pray), and Indonesia (love).  This book has been a bestseller for months, staring at us from the shelves in Target, Costco, Borders and the grocery store.   It was touted by Oprah on at least 2 different shows, which is a lot of media hype in and of itself.   I resisted this book for a long time, but when the book club picked it, I had no choice but to give in.

So far I like her style; I like her sense of humor and turn of phrase.  She does not annoy me in the least.  Her descriptions of Italy, from the food to the men, are so vivid it makes me want to pack my bags.  Oh, wait, unlike Gilbert I have a family and responsibilities, and no one is going to pay me to go find myself.  Shoot.  Ok, I’m a little jealous, but I still like her.

So I was surprised, then, to get an email from a friend in my book club saying she thought Gilbert was a whiny bitch.  Such strong emotions!  It occurred to me that maybe this friend could also be a tad envious of Gilbert’s freedom to travel and not answer to anybody.  She happens to have two children with special needs and has a hard time getting out in the evening just to see a movie.

I was further surprised to read my blog friend Beastmomma’s  recent post about the book, in which she said,  “Eat, Pray, Love would have been a much better book if the author did not seem like she was patronizing and condescending to the countries she visited.”  I took that with a grain of salt, because Beastmomma is of Indian descent, so quite possibly she has a different viewpoint than many other readers.  Well it wasn’t long before a verbal fist fight ensued in her comments section.  People seem to either love or hate this book.  It has resonated with so many and pissed off so many others.

Have you read Eat, Pray, Love?  What do you think:  

Eat, Pray, LOATHE or Eat, Pray, LOVE?

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Juggling

This is SO unlike me, but I am currently reading two books simultaneously. Normally I don’t like to juggle my reading material.  I find it difficult to keep the details straight or focus on what I’m reading.   But the two books I’m currently enjoying are so different that I have no problem distinguishing one from the other.  Maybe that is the key to juggling books!  One is fiction and one non-fiction, one is from a male perspective, one female.  The subject matter is completely different.

The book on my nightstand is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, about a woman who, following a difficult divorce and a bout with depression takes a year to travel and examine her life.  I’m reading this for my book club.  The book I’m carrying around in my purse is Keeper and Kid by Edward Hardy, about a guy who discovers after his ex-wife dies that he’s got a 3 year old son he didn’t know existed.  Surprise!  I received this book free from the publisher and so far, it’s really good.

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Can you juggle your books?