My husband Stuart and I have just worked together to make two pumpkin pies, two apple pies, and broccoli, curry cheese soup. We are waiting for our daughter Kate and her boyfriend Nik to arrive from Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving weekend. It seems fitting–maybe it was all that cooking–that this would be the night to write about one of the most popular memoirs of the last two years–Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.
Interestingly, critics and readers alike have chided Gilbert for the shallowness of her spiritual journey and for the self-absorption of her personal quest. Some are just jealous that they don’t have book advances that pay for a year of globe-trotting. Others have reacted quite differently, enjoying the intelligence, humor, and adventure of the story as the author moves from a crying jag on her bathroom floor in Manhattan to a divorce, then to Italy, India, and Indonesia where she is able to, successively and successfully, eat, pray, and love.
I enjoyed reading the book. It kept me well entertained on an airplane trip. And since several people in my life were going through divorces at the time this book came out, I read with a motive to learn about healing from that particular kind of pain. When it came to the spiritual transformation section, where the author discovers how to pray in an Ashram in India, I was less inspired than amused.
I don’t expect this book to become a classic of spiritual autobiography. The author seems to struggle mightily to arrive at the first base of wisdom. I suspect ambition, calculation, and narcissism are still too much with her.
But one theme rings true. The passages in the book which focus on prayer as gratitude sing with what the author names “Diligent Joy.” The very last lines of the book rise to a lovely descant: “In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
To that I say “Amen.”
And as I enjoy the festivities with my family tomorrow, I will remember to thank Elizabeth Gilbert. She showed me–again–the three most important verbs of Thanksgiving are–eat, pray, love.