Book Club: Eat, Pray, Love

This month, we read Elizabeth Gilbert‘s bestseller Eat, Pray, Love. This selection generated a lot of discussion, mainly because most in the club didn’t like it and some openly hated it. Overall, I liked it although I did find some things annoying. What I liked: Gilbert is a really entertaining, self-deprecating writer. I really identified with her resistance to family and cultural pressures to have children, something I’ve gone through myself. (even feminist friends who should know better have asked me when I’m having children — never! When one of my lesbian friends said, oh you’ll feel different when it’s your child, I told her, well how would you like it if I said you just haven’t found the right man?)

Gilbert’s writing is certainly colorful — her description of the various folks she encounters in her travels reminded me of Peter Mayle’s work. The section in Bali was probably the best part of the book since that’ where you really get a sense of these individuals as people rather than “characters.” The section on India did get a bit tedious (how many times do we need to hear how hard it is to meditate?) but they did make her seem more human.

Some things I found annoying — well, there are some clunky metaphors that made me go “oh please” (e.g. her toxic boyfriend is both her “catnip and kryptonite”) Another book club member also found the ending just a little too “perfect.” Then of course, there’s the fact that she doesn’t have to worry about money. This is an entertaining journey but not one the vast majority of unhappy thirty-somethings can take.

What people hated — one book club member gave the whole dark side of the Ashram and guru described in her story (whom she described as “guru give-me-all-your-money”). Her sister-in-law was one of her devotees and wound up spending all her mother’s savings. Another member couldn’t get very far into the Italy section, finding it just frivolous and silly. The general sense is that while we would love to have Gilbert sit down with us at dinner and tell stories, we really couldn’t understand all the hype this book has received.

Now, on to the important part — the restaurant! We tried the highly-rated new restaurant, Firebox, which is Hartford’s take on the locally-grown craze. The food is really great although a bit pricey and portions are a bit stingy compared to the super-size dishes you get elsewhere. My only complaint is the lack of parking at and near the restaurant. It’s not the best neighborhood for a woman (or man) to walk around alone.

Next month selection: Two Lives, Janet Malcolm’s biography of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.

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