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Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned thirty, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. She had everything an educated, ambitious American woman was supposed to want┐a husband, a house, a successful career. But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief, and confusion. She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love, and the eradication of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be. To recover from all this, Gilbert took a radical step. In order to give herself the time and space to find out who she really was and what she really wanted, she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, and undertook a yearlong journey around the world all alone. Eat, Pray, Love is the absorbing chronicle of that year. Her aim was to visit three places where she could examine one aspect of her own nature set against the backdrop of a culture that has traditionally done that one thing very well. In Rome, she studied the art of pleasure, learning to speak Italian and gaining the twenty-three happiest pounds of her life. India was for the art of devotion, and with the help of a native guru and a surprisingly wise cowboy from Texas, she embarked on four uninterrupted months of spiritual exploration. In Bali, she studied the art of balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. She became the pupil of an elderly medicine man and also fell in love the best wayunexpectedly. An intensely articulate and moving memoir of self-discovery, Eat, Pray, Love is about what can happen when you claim responsibility for your own contentment and stop trying to live in imitation of society┐s ideals. It is certain to touch anyone who has ever woken up to the unrelenting need for change.
Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of a story collection, Pilgrims (a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award), a novel, Stern Men, and, most recently, The Last American Man, a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award. As a journalist, she wrote for GQ for five years and was nominated three times for the National Magazine Award.
1 I wish Giovanni would kiss me.Oh, but there are so many reasons why this would be a terrible idea. To begin with, Giovanni is ten years younger than I am, andolike most Italian guys in their twentiesohe still lives with his mother. These facts alone make him an unlikely romantic partner for me, given that I am a professional American woman in my mid-thirties, who has just come through a failed marriage and a devastating, interminable divorce, followed immediately by a passionate love affair that ended in sickening heartbreak. This loss upon loss has left me feeling sad and brittle and about seven thousand years old. Purely as a matter of principle I wouldnit inflict my sorry, busted-up old self on the lovely, unsullied Giovanni. Not to mention that I have finally arrived at that age where a woman starts to question whether the wisest way to get over the loss of one beautiful brown-eyed young man is indeed to promptly invite another one into her bed. This is why I have been alone for many months now. This is why, in fact, I have decided to spend this entire year in celibacy. To which the savvy observer might inquire: iThen why did you come to Italy?i To which I can only replyoespecially when looking across the table at handsome Giovannio iExcellent question.i Giovanni is my Tandem Exchange Partner. That sounds like an innuendo, but unfortunately itis not. All it really means is that we meet a few evenings a week here in Rome to practice each otheris languages. We speak first in Italian, and he is patient with me; then we speak in English, and I am patient with him. I discovered Giovanni a few weeks after Iid arrived in Rome, thanks to that big Internet cafE at the Piazza Barbarini, across the street from that fountain with the sculpture of that sexy merman blowing into his conch shell. He (Giovanni, that isonot the merman) had posted a flier on the bulletin board explaining that a native Italian speaker was seeking a native English speaker for conversational language practice. Right beside his appeal was another flier with the same request, word-for-word identical in every way, right down to the typeface. The only difference was the contact information. One flier listed an e-mail address for somebody named Giovanni; the other introduced somebody named Dario. But even the home phone number was the same. Using my keen intuitive powers, I e-mailed both men at the same time, asking in Italian, iAre you perhaps brothers?i It was Giovanni who wrote back this very provocativo message: iEven better. Twins!i Yesomuch better. Tall, dark and handsome identical twenty-five-year-old twins, as it turned out, with those giant brown liquid-center Italian eyes that just unstitch me. After meeting the boys in person, I began to wonder if perhaps I should adjust my rule somewhat about remaining celibate this year. For instance, perhaps I could remain totally celibate except for keeping a pair of handsome twenty-five-year-old Italian twin brothers as lovers. Which was slightly reminiscent of a friend of mine who is vegetarian except for bacon, but nonetheless ... I was already composing my letter to Penthouse: In the flickering, candlelit shadows of the Roman cafE, it was impossible to tell whose hands were caressoBut, no. No and no. I chopped tvhe fantasy off in mid-word. This was not my moment to be seeking romance and (as day follows night) to further complicate my already knotty life. This was my moment to look for the kind of healing and peace that can only come from solitude. Anyway, by now, by the middle of November, the shy, studious Giovanni and I have become dear buddies. As for Darioothe more razzle-dazzle swinger brother of the twooI have introduced him to my adorable little Swedish friend Sofie, and how theyive been sharing their evenings in Rome is another kind of Tandem Exchange altogether. But Giovanni and I, we only talk. Well, we eat and