Feb 022015



Title: Eat, Pray, Love

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Rating: **** (4 stars)

“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. It’s easy!”

Some of you know of my long-time Beatles fandom. For those of you who were not aware of it, I’ve loved (and occasionally been obsessed with) the Beatles since I was about ten years old, so I’m sure I’ve heard this particular song (“All You Need is Love,” for the uneducated reader) at least two hundred times and I am just now beginning to understand it.

“There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done…all you need is love.”

This song has been going through my mind a lot lately since I just finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel, Eat, Pray, Love. It’s a book I wouldn’t have picked up on my own, mainly because of all of the hype associated with it. If something is too popular, I’m not usually interested, but my book club read it and, since I love my book club, I read it, too.

At the beginning of this compassionate autobiography, Gilbert goes on a business trip to Bali and meets a medicine man who reads her palm and predicts with certainty that she will lose all of her money, get it all back, come back to Bali, and become his friend. Since she probably wouldn’t have included it in the book unless it would become significant later, you can be pretty sure his prediction comes true. She loses all of her money and then gets an advance on the book Eat, Pray, Love, which will be about her adventures traveling to three “I” countries: Italy (to explore pleasure), India (to explore spirituality), and Indonesia (to hopefully find balance).

Her version of pleasure while in Italy basically equates to gluttony and her spiritual experience in India is entirely based on meditation. In Indonesia, her goal at the beginning is to learn meditation from her medicine man, but what she ends up learning is that, after all of her other inward experiences, she feels the need to turn around and share with others. She does this by sharing her time with the medicine man and by sharing money with a friend to help her build a house and by sharing love with a man she meets there.

One day she is talking to her medicine man and (this is the part where the Beatles come in) he tells her something like, “You were always meant to come to Bali. You were never not going to come here.”

We make our choices in life but I do believe we always end up where we were meant to be. The difference is the way we choose to get there. The medicine man also tells Gilbert that he visited heaven and hell in meditation and they are the same place. This gave me pause until I remember that it is entirely possible to be in the same place as someone else while you are experiencing hell and they are experiencing heaven. “All you need is love.” Hopefully, we are all trying to get to the same place (Heaven, Nirvana, Valhalla, etc.) and maybe most of us will get there but our attitude about the whole predestined journey is what will make our lives there either Heaven or Hell.

The journey may be different for each of us, but the destination is the same. We all seek balance, peace, concern for others, and charity and not all of us need to travel the world to find out how to use them, but Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel was instructional for me about the private journey we must all take to end up “where [we’re] meant to be. It’s easy!”

Oct 012014

Just as I’m sure Robert E. Lee does at the end of this book series (if I’d made it that far), I surrender! These books have had me under siege for the last six months and I finally give up and refuse to finish the last one with about one hundred pages to go.

This is a trilogy, with the second book (The Killer Angels) written by Michael Shaara and the first and third (Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure) written by his son, Jeff. The second book, The Killer Angels, was well-written historical fiction, written all from the perspectives of real-life characters during the Battle of Gettysburg. By the end, I came to the conclusion that Providence was decidedly against the South during the Civil War. They were much more invested, had better intelligence and stronger commanders, and simply should have won. There was no good reason why they lost the war, other than the one mentioned above.

I’m assuming they lost, anyway, probably at the end of the third book which I am not going to finish. While Michael Shaara’s writing in Killer Angels was masterful and all culminated in a strong conclusion, Jeff Shaara was out to write a historical book, not so much a historical fiction novel. There was a lot of information packed into his two books, but none of it seemed to matter or point you toward anything and he is not a very skilled writer. Many of his sentences were run-ons and there was not much in either of his books to compel me forward.

While reading the first and third books in this series, I would regularly stop and read some mind-candy because I would get out of the reading “groove” and needed something a little lighter. I’ll probably save you the reviews on most of the books I read during this time, but suffice it to say that there was usually a girl wearing a ball gown on the covers of most of them (no bodice-busters. I don’t go for that sort of thing, but we could certainly call them “chick lit”).

I’ve spent nearly six months trying to force myself to finish this series, which should tell you something. You’re never “trying to finish” a book you enjoy, right? Of those six months, I believe I spent two weeks on The Killer Angels, so if you see these three in the bookstore, listen to the little voice in your head that a son who tries to finish his father’s story for him will never be able to do it justice.