by Elizabeth Gilbert
A memoir (from French: mémoire: memoria, meaning memory or reminiscence) is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private that took place in the subject’s life.
I’m still new to the Memoir genre, so I don’t have much to compare this with. But I really enjoyed reading this book and the author’s insight about life and its situations.
This book in five random words…
Why I think you should read this book…
It’s a travel memoir. If you love travelling, you will like this book. The author will take you to Italy, India, and Indonesia as you turn the pages.
If you are heartbroken, the first part of the book is for you. I first read this when I wasn’t really undergoing heartbreak or anything, and I still felt every word. And then I thought of these two friends of mine who recently had their hearts broken and realized that these might be the right words that they needed right now.
What I love about this book…
The voice of the author. Her insights, especially the ones on the first part of the book–Eat. I really adored that part. I would read it over and over again. There’s something inspiring and heartbreakingly beautiful with how the first part came out. For me, it’s the most beautiful of the three. But Pray and Love also have their own charms as well.
The words. I have complete adoration for words, and the author used them so perfectly. I love how careful she was about the words she had chosen. I also learned that it really matters–how you choose your words could greatly affect the voice of the story.
How This Book Works
The 109th Bead
When you’re traveling in India — especially through holy sites and Ashrams — you see a lot of people wearing beads around their necks. You also see a lot of old photographs of naked, skinny and intimidating Yogis (or sometimes even plump, kindly and radiant Yogis) wearing beads, too. These strings of beads are called japa malas. They have been used in India for centuries to assist devout Hindus and Buddhists in staying focused during prayerful meditation. The necklace is held in one hand and fingered in a circle — one bead touched for every repetition of mantra. When the medieval Crusaders drove East for the holy wars, they witnessed worshippers praying with these japa malas, admired the technique, and brought the idea home to Europe as rosary.
The traditional japa mala is strung with 108 beads. Amid the more esoteric circle of Eastern philosophers, the number 108 is held to be most auspicious, a perfect three-digit multiple of three, its components adding up to nine, which is three threes. And three, of course, is the number representing supreme balance, as anyone who has ever studied either the Holy Trinity or a simple barstool can plainly see. Being as this whole book is about my efforts to find balance, I have decided to structure it like a japa mala, dividing my story into 108 tales, or beads. This string of 108 tales is further divided into three sections about Italy, India and Indonesia — the three countries I visited during this year of self-inquiry. This division means that there are 36 tales in each section, which appeals to me on a personal level because I am writing all this during my thirty-sixth year.
Now before I get too Louis Farrakhan here with this numerology business, let me conclude by saying that I also like the idea of stringing these stories along the structure of a japa mala because it is so . . . structured. Sincere spiritual investigation is, and always has been, an endeavor of methodical discipline. Looking for Truth is not some kind of spazzy free-for-all, not even during this, the great age of the spazzy free-for-all. As both a seeker and a writer, I find it helpful to hang on to the beads as much as possible, the better to keep my attention focused on what it is I’m trying to accomplish.
In any case, every japa mala has a special, extra bead — the 109th bead — which dangles outside that balanced circle of 108 like a pendant. I used to think the 109th bead was an emergency spare, like the extra button on a fancy sweater, or the youngest son in a royal family. But apparently there is an even higher purpose. When your fingers reach this marker during prayer, you are meant to pause from your absorption in meditation and thank your teachers. So here, at my own 109th bead, I pause before I even begin. I offer thanks to all my teachers, who have appeared before me this year in so many curious forms.
But most especially I thank my Guru, who is compassion’s very heartbeat, and who so generously permitted me to study at her Ashram while I was in India. This is also the moment where I would like to clarify that I write about my experiences in India purely from a personal standpoint and not as a theological scholar or as anybody’s official spokesperson. This is why I will not be using my Guru’s name throughout this book — because I cannot speak for her. Her teachings speak best for themselves. Nor will I reveal either the name or the location of her Ashram, thereby sparing that fine institution publicity which it may have neither the interest in nor the resources for managing.
One final expression of gratitude: While scattered names throughout this book have been changed for various reasons, I’ve elected to change the names of every single person I met — both Indian and Western — at this Ashram in India. This is out of respect for the fact that most people don’t go on a spiritual pilgrimage in order to appear later as a character in a book. (Unless, of course, they are me.) I’ve made only one exception to this self-imposed policy of anonymity. Richard from Texas really is named Richard, and he really is from Texas. I wanted to use his real name because he was so important to me when I was in India.
One last thing — when I asked Richard if it was OK with him if I mentioned in my book that he used to be a junkie and a drunk, he said that would be totally fine.
He said, “I’d been trying to figure out how to get the word out about that, anyhow.”
But first— Italy . . .
from: Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
The different cultures presented in this book. I love learning other people’s culture. I’m not really the one who reads text books or Wikipedia excerpts. Rather, I love learning other cultures by talking to the people living there and hearing their stories.There’s just something so beautiful hearing about the way they live there and their beliefs. I’ll spend all night listening to them.
This is one of my favorite things to do, even when I travel with my friends. I really love asking the ones who are selling souvenirs or the tricycle drivers or random kids about their place. I would ask them where they got the goods that they were selling and what made it different from the ones that were being sold elsewhere. I love the glitter in their eyes when they proudly answer the question. It’s probably the same thing I would do if somebody asked me what they should buy here from Laguna and bring home as pasalubong. I would tell you that the buko pie from The Originals in Los Banos is the best buko pie ever created, with conviction. Hahahaha!
And lastly, the words…
Favorite quotes from the book and movie…
In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want–husband, country home, successful career–but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.
Movie adaptation poster and trailer…