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Examining the appeal of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

Not every woman devours “Eat, Pray, Love” like it’s the literary equivalent of authentic Italian pizza.

There’s a widespread belief that the book — a 2006 memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert — is an untouchable treasure among female readers.

That’s why I felt so horrible when my initial reaction to “Eat, Pray, Love” violated what seemed like the status quo.

I didn’t get it.

I gave up quickly after initially perusing the book, which focuses on how Gilbert’s divorce ignited a life-changing international journey. Insert self-discovery here.

Not only did I give up on “Eat, Pray, Love,” but I’m embarrassed to admit I took slight pleasure in criticizing my many female friends who regarded the book as almost a religion of its own.

My issue with the book?

I fall into the camp of readers convinced that Gilbert wallows too much in her misery in the early parts of the memoir.

Also, I take issue with the fact that a failed romantic relationship seems like the sole impetus for Gilbert’s journey.

But I reconsidered my feelings as publicity for the film adaptation of “Eat, Pray, Love” grew.

So I re-read the memoir, this time with an open mind an belief that there must be some truth behind all the rave reviews.

Now, I’m a kinda-sorta convert, if that endorsement carries any weight in the literary world.

I still dispute the claim that Gilbert is an “everywoman” figure. She is not.

Most of her readers don’t have the freedom, or finances, to take an international airplane ride amid heartache.

A narrator with more “everywoman” credibility would be the woman who after a breakup risks running into her ex at the nearby coffee shop, or is forced to concentrate on an office job amid personal stress.

Gilbert’s plan of action is unrealistic, but her awareness of a need for personal change can resonate with a variety of readers.

And even beside her pretty scenery, Gilbert doesn’t find happiness immediately.

At times you almost believe the international luxuries don’t matter, that Gilbert’s brilliant backdrop doesn’t give her any sort of advantage in the game of life.

Almost.

I’ve decided “Eat, Pray, Love” is most appealing when viewed as half fairy tale, half real-life story.

Gilbert shares our real-life stresses while taunting and entertaining us with a fairy tale solution to our problems.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516.

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