People find their way to God in many different ways, but I doubt that many have taken as unique a journey as author, Elizabeth Gilbert. In her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, she chronicles her travels through Italy, India, and Bali in search of a true connection to God. Her story is honest, self-deprecating, wise, and funny; as engaging on many levels as the work of Anne Lamott.

Gilbert sets off on this quest, reeling from a divorce and a subsequent difficult relationship. She admits the fault for the breakups is equally hers, and a need to make peace with herself is as much a part of her quest as the search for a meaningful relationship with God. That search begins one night on the bathroom floor, where Gilbert sits sobbing in despair, then tentatively starts to pray. “Hello, God. How are you? I‘m Liz. It’s nice to meet you.”

She explains that the prayer started that way because that is how she introduces herself to people when they first meet, but she did stop herself before she said, “I’ve always been a big fan of your work…”

The prayer concludes with her repeatedly saying, “Please tell me what to do,” until a voice clearly says, “Go back to bed, Liz.”

Her experience that night is similar to what many Christians have experienced as “conversion”, but Gilbert points out that she did not consider this a religious conversion. Rather, she calls it a “religious conversation.”

Several months and numerous religious conversations later, Gilbert arranges her life and her finances so she can take a year for her spiritual journey. The first stop is Italy, because she has always wanted to learn Italian, and in Italy she could “explore the art of pleasure.” She would “…explore the art of devotion in India, and in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two.”

Fundamentalists of any religion may find her book a bit too irreverent for their tastes, but they can read it just to enjoy the descriptions of places and people that are rich in detail. And they might even enjoy the humor. Others, especially those who share her unconventional philosophy about religion and spirituality, will find the book resonating on deep levels. One of the truths that Gilbert learns through her time in the Ashram in India is that one does not have to go to a church to find God. One only has to go deep into oneself where God already dwells.

The people Gilbert meets in the three countries are fascinating and she brings them to life with a deft touch. In reading the dialogue one can almost hear the Eastern accent of Kutu, the Indonesian Medicine Man or the soft, sweet Italian of the baker who calls her Bella. Pictures of some of the people can be seen on Gilbert’s Web site:

Gilbert is an award-winning author of three previous books, The Last American Man, Stern Men, and Pilgrims, as well as numerous articles and short stories in The New Yorker, GQ, ELLE, and SPIN magazine, where she was on staff. Much of her writing has been optioned by Hollywood. Her GQ memoir about her bartending years became the Disney movie “Coyote Ugly.”

Eat, Pray Love

Elizabeth Gilbert

Penguin Books

ISBN: 978-0-14-303841-2

334 pages

Trade Paperback $15.00

Maryann Miller

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