In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want–husband, country home, successful career..
But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion.
This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place.
Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures:
pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.
Review From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Gilbert (The Last American Man) grafts the structure of romantic fiction upon the inquiries of reporting in this sprawling yet methodical travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery. Plagued with despair after a nasty divorce, the author, in her early 30s, divides a year equally among three dissimilar countries, exploring her competing urges for earthly delights and divine transcendence. First, pleasure: savoring Italy’s buffet of delights–the world’s best pizza, free-flowing wine and dashing conversation partners–Gilbert consumes la dolce vita as spiritual succor. “I came to Italy pinched and thin,” she writes, but soon fills out in waist and soul. Then, prayer and ascetic rigor: seeking communion with the divine at a sacred ashram in India, Gilbert emulates the ways of yogis in grueling hours of meditation, struggling to still her churning mind. Finally, a balancing act in Bali, where Gilbert tries for equipoise “betwixt and between” realms, studies with a merry medicine man and plunges into a charged love affair. Sustaining a chatty, conspiratorial tone, Gilbert fully engages readers in the year’s cultural and emotional tapestry–conveying rapture with infectious brio, recalling anguish with touching candor–as she details her exotic tableau with history, anecdote and impression.
Review From The New Yorker
At the age of thirty-one, Gilbert moved with her husband to the suburbs of New York and began trying to get pregnant, only to realize that she wanted neither a child nor a husband. Three years later, after a protracted divorce, she embarked on a yearlong trip of recovery, with three main stops: Rome, for pleasure (mostly gustatory, with a special emphasis on gelato); an ashram outside of Mumbai, for spiritual searching; and Bali, for “balancing.” These destinations are all on the beaten track, but Gilbert’s exuberance and her self-deprecating humor enliven the proceedings: recalling the first time she attempted to speak directly to God, she says, “It was all I could do to stop myself from saying, ‘I’ve always been a big fan of your work.'”