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Eat, Pray, Love, and lentil soup

August 16, 2010

Right now I’m setting up new pages on my blog, setting up a fan page on facebook- doing everything accept actually write about Eat, Pray, Love.

Eat, Pray, Love isn’t a book I wouldn’t usually find myself reading. It’s a female empowerment book, a coming-of-age novel for female 30 somethings. But it was also the choice for the first session of my book club, which was held this past Saturday morning as Sandra, Mark, Nicole and I sat over big greasy spoon breakfasts the morning after *Midnight Madness in Bolton. The one member who finished the book was absent because we hadn’t told him about the plans until the last second. So far the planning and follow-through of the book club has been impressive.

Eat, Pray, Love is the auto-biographical account of a 30-somethings writer Elizabeth Gilbert, who goes through a messy divorce, and break-up following divorce- and goes on a year-long sabbatical to Italy, India, and Indonesia to find herself. It’s broken into 108 sections or chapters, which is the same number of beads as on a mala or set of prayer beads used by buddhists and hindus. It’s a number that some members in my group found insurmountable while they were reading, but don’t be discouraged, the 3 part novel is an easy read.

What’s interesting about this book is how the author chooses to find herself. After her break-up she takes the time to think about what she wants in life- and what she wants is to learn how “to be with God all the time (but without being) a monk, or totally giv(ing) up on worldly pleasures.” The first part of the book sees the author living in Rome, seeking pleasure in eating Italian food, and speaking the beautiful Italian language. What Liz is really learning from eating is the art of il bel far niente, the art of doing nothing- of being with oneself and being happy without needing to do anything. And what Liz is learns from her pursuit of pleasure is that we need pleasure and beautiful things in our life because “In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted.”

The second part of the book takes Liz to an India, to study yoga for 4 months at the ashram of her guru. The goal of studying yoga is to find union “between mind and body, between the individual and her God”. The idea of yoga, and I think Gilbert describes this very well in her book, “is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.” It is about finding the godliness that is already inside of us by learning to control our ego, which gets in the way of our happiness. Writing a book about finding God without offending anyone, or convincing them that you’re crazy is a bit of task. But right from the beginning Gilbert`stresses that her notion of what God is personal, and that she’s not trying to impress her religious views onto anyone. She’s not telling you that you ought to find God, and which “God” you ought to find. And she says that if you want to find God, you can do it just by being yourself in a way that works for you- also the point of JD Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey”.

So how is it that she loves God without changing herself? Through loving, and letting herself love romantically.

Overall, it’s a pretty good book. It’s not a really meaty book, but she did do a good job on the research- which you appreciate when she’s gliding through Italy, telling stories of Syracuse, or what Dante Alighieri has to do with shaping the Italian language. And having dabbled in a little yoga myself, I found her story of how she learned to meditate pretty interesting because it is a hard experience to put into words. She also made understanding the complicated ideas behind what she was doing seem very graspable. Although, like she says, it is always frustrating in a book when someone tells about having a transcendental experience with God.

The biggest problem in the book is Gilbert’s character. Some people in our group didn’t like the fact that her character is a pushover and makes the silly decision of getting married if that’s not what she wanted. Others complained that in the book seemed like she was trying to buy a religious experience. It’s true that her means did give her access to being able to do things that a lot of her readers can’t do- like going on a year-long trip around the world to find herself. I took these things int. Also, I don’t think the point of the book was that if you’re feeling blue that you should travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia to be happy. It’s that you should have a real experience with God, in whatever way works for you.

After our breakfast we went to watch the film with Julia Roberts, and it was pretty good, although I think reading the book first made it a bit richer of an experience. But Julia Roberts did a great job of making the author seem like a real person, and making her character more loveable.

I thought since part of this book was about eating to find God, I would post a recipe. While lentil soup is more like what she would’ve eaten on the ashram in India than in a fancy restaurant in Italy, this is still very tasty.

Remember, taste and adjust spices to taste.

lentil soup

*Midnight Madness is a yearly celebration in Bolton, Ontario where the shops stay open until midnight and the whole town comes out to party.

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