As an avid reader, I've come across some good books (and, of course, lots of losers). I'm not genre-specific, from mystery to "women's literature" to autobiographies to historical, I've read them all. This one, however, stunned me.
As a 30-something raised by former religious-order (Catholic) parents who ended up embracing eastern philosophy, I spent my formative years visiting ashrams, meeting mediums and gurus, meditating- all sorts of non-traditional exposure. My parents had us do the Catholic sacraments and training too. Just in case.
I married a traditional Catholic and honestly wasn't sure what I believed. I admired the complete faith of other Catholics, but I didn't feel it. In my darkest moments, I began to question whether this wasn't all random and maybe in the same way we think a dead bug is just dead, maybe that too was our fate. Gone forever- faith being just a brain-process to protect us from the truth. I sadly thought that maybe I was burdened by being one of the smart ones who was able to see this and I felt cursed that I had the intellect for it.
In recent years, I began to truly feel that existential weight- that I needed to know what this was all for. Time seemed to be slipping by so quickly it began to alarm me. I read all sorts of books from Victor Frankel to Ian Stevenson. I thought I was starting to find a path back to believing in something greater, but it seemed like "information gathering" for me vs an emotional breakthrough.
Then I read a review of this book and tacked it onto my to-read list with a bunch of others. It seemed like a chick-lit type book and those are great every now and again, like eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast- good but best you don’t make a habit of it . When I finally got it, I checked reviews again and ALMOST DECIDED TO RETURN IT. The review I read said something along the line of: obviously a book written only as an excuse to travel around the world. That sounded dull to me but I started to read it anyway, just to see.
Well, wow. What can I say? Someone commended the author for having the courage to publish such a brutally honest and intensely personal journey of discovery. At times, that's an understatement. This book can be so forthcoming, I almost think I would edit some of the content, even contemplating only in my own mind. However, there is something so stirring and so vividly true about her story, and her humor among the gravity of seeking such divine wisdom. It felt so real. And for me, given my background, I found myself actually shedding tears several times in the book (out of seemingly nowhere)- I recognized things the author wrote that my conscious mind had forgotten. This book has put into words things that I have struggled to define. Over and over again. Its remarkable.
Beyond the deeply moving spiritual and philosophical discoveries in the book, Elizabeth is just a really really good writer. Very funny, very clever, very articulate. It made me insanely jealous of her talent. You could read this book on a "regular" level without the spiritual overtones and still find it funny.
Obviously this book wasn't intended as a religious text, but in some ways it became one to me. I will actually reread this book, which I almost never do, because in her observations I think there is profoundly deep meaning and I don't know if I could have absorbed it all the first time. The best part is that this is someone who I actually saw a lot of myself in and my friends in, not some wacky "new ager" that makes you want to roll your eyes as you find a way to extract yourself from listening to their stories.
And whoever wrote the review on Amazon about this all being about not wanting to have kids? What kind of craziness is that? The author makes brief commentary on being unsure about having kids- which 90% of us go through/went through, but she also has the wisdom to note that most parents seem to find them a metaphysical experience. And I can attest, I think my young son is a lot of the reason I began "seeking" truth because despite the endless sacrifice, there are the moments when I know I am, without question, in the presence of something that is the closest I may ever come to God in this lifetime. The radiant innocence and beauty of a child- it that doesn't break your heart open and set it free, I'm not sure what can.
What a remarkable book, and a remarkable person.
My Epilogue: Eat Pray Love...then what?