Like most quests, travel writer Elizabeth Gilbert's didn't come about because she was perfectly happy at home. She had recently passed the doddering age of thirty, gone through a nasty divorce and first post-divorce relationship (and breakup), and was exhibiting every symptom of depression. So she decided to heal herself by dedicating a year to studying the things she believes are critical to a truly happy and fulfilled life. The plan was to spend four months in Italy learning to experience pure pleasure, four months on an ashram in India learning to dedicate herself to a spiritual practice and the last four months in Indonesia, working with a medicine man to discover the art of balance.
If Gilbert were any less honest, self-effacing and full of humor, Eat, Pray, Love could have easily turned boring or, frankly, irritating. Who wants to read about someone who's not really middle-aged having a midlife crisis and then has the privilege of going around the world to lick her wounds? But this book is an incredibly engaging story that lets you experience Gilbert's adventures right along with her, while forcing you to think about how you live your own life.
If this all sounds too serious, it's not. Gilbert is funny, and as soon as her spiritual quest veers into slightly uncomfortable territory for non-believers she counters with something like her suggestion to a pesky kid on the beach in Bali: I'm not talking because I'm on a friggin' spiritual journey, you nasty little punk now go AWAY! or lets you in on her New York City-speed inner monologue during the early days of meditation in the ashram.
While it's hard to believe some of the people she meets actually exist the straight-talking Texan yogi, the Balinese medicine woman with a special banana massage for the impotent or the Brazilian lover of a certain age you're simply grateful by the end that Gilbert hit the road and decided to share her story.
Megan Brenn-White is the author of Bake Me A Cake, a cookbook for kids, a frequent contributor to FoodNetwork.com and a former editor and writer for the Let's Go travel guides.