This book came into my life approximately two different times. The first time occurred as I was scrolling through one of my all-time favorite travel blogs, World of Wanderlust. Brooke Saward’s WOW Book Club had set its sights on this particular book for June, and reading her review made me sorta kinda want to read it. If I have time, I told myself. If I happen across it, then I’ll buy it, I reaffirmed.
Side Note: Years prior, I had watched the movie version of Eat Pray Love with my mother. I could only recall lots of pretty pasta and pizza, and a scene where Julia Roberts has to lie on the floor to squeeze into her pants. My mom, however, hated, and I mean hated, the film. She detested Liz’s apparent cowardice when she left her husband. She was selfish, she said. So, no. That was not a film we ever watched again.
I forgot about the WOW Book Club and my notion of happenstance on reading that particular novel after I returned to school. I was busy and I did not have time to read a book that I only sorta kinda wanted to read when I really needed to be reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s The Old Regime and the French Revolution (which, if you want an immortal quote, try “…the same things which have often made lovely books can lead to great revolutions.” Beat that, millennial writers.)
And then, the economy’s ruin of local bookstores brought Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It back into my life. Hasting’s was having an out-of-business/closing down/giving up sale, so one weekend I decided to go check out the racks of discounted vinyl and rows of dirt cheap books. I bought a couple to give away as gifts, but more importantly to this review, I left with what I thought was a copy of Eat Pray Love. After my trip to France my junior year of high school, I loved reading about travel, and Liz Gilbert’s story was the quintessential building block of travel novels, so I had made up my mind to give the book its own try.
However, when I got back to my room and unpacked my oldies but goodies, stacking them on my bookshelf so I could admire them when ignoring my responsibilities, I noticed that Eat Pray Love was not, in fact, Eat Pray Love. It was Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It. Oh well, I thought. I told myself I was going to read this someday.
I guess that day had come.
Except it was not, technically, that day. I did not get around to actually reading it until the first week of summer. I read it in the car on the way to my grandma’s house; it was a simple read, packed with success stories and affirmations of hope, love, and independence. I realized that Liz Gilbert in Eat Pray Love was also the same person as the author Elizabeth Gilbert and that everything she chronicled in her novel was real. She actually went to Italy, India, and Bali. I was amazed and inspired, and easily felt the draw that the writers of Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It had felt before they went on their own journey.
Their writings were heartbreaking and shocking, some intensely personal. As I read, I could pick out the contributors who write for a living. I felt their stories as I turned the pages. Not to say the other stories were not equally good, but they were good on the basis of commonality: each of those writers felt the need to change, was inspired by someone else’s words, and then went out on a blind leap of faith and changed. Some for better, some for worse. But it’s not the reader’s job to decide that–although these stories are not fictional and the characters indeed live on past the last pages of the book, we, as readers, cannot go out and find them and ask them if they regret their decisions. We can relate to them, we can sympathize with them. We can marvel at the luck they experienced in overseas travel.
This book if anything, made me want to read Eat Pray Love even more, to find out what the hype was all about. I walked calmly down to my basement, trying to ignore the voice in my head saying, “I hope mom didn’t throw out her copy of the book, or burn it, or give it away. I hope mom didn’t throw out her copy of the book or burn it….”
I bent down and pulled out the little paperback book.