Why I hate Eat, Pray, Love

March 7, 2008

Since landing on Oprah’s Book Club, the hype about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love has been almost endless. Consequently, the memoir has spent about a million weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. As most readers know, that doesn’t always mean a book is good. So what’s my verdict? After spending three days pushing through it, my suspicions were confirmed: the book is a new-agey piece of trash.

Gilbert’s memoir gets an F for many reasons. I’d estimate that it could be pared down to about half of its mind-numbing 352 pages. I don’t care to read chapter after chapter of self-pity about her divorce from a husband, who, God forbid, wanted to have a family. I should also mention that the life she described didn’t seem too bad: a nice job, a big house, etc. When she’s supposedly at rock bottom, her editor gives her an advance on the book that funds her year-long trip around the globe. Boo hoo.

I could continue my rant about the suck factor of Eat, Pray, Love, but let me get to the heart of why I think her memoir is nothing more than soul-less soul-searching. All of my hatred for this book culminated in the third portion, “Indonesia.” In this section, Gilbert arrives on the doorstep of an elderly healer/magician, who is supposed to teach her about what he does, apparently so she can feed the void. While in Bali, she crosses paths with another healer, who is also divorced, but lives in poverty and struggles to support her young daughter. Being a typical, dumb Westerner, Gilbert thinks she can “fix” this woman’s situation by throwing money at her to buy a home: $18,000 she collected from her equally typical, dumb American friends. After several weeks and no home purchased, Gilbert starts putting the pressure on this woman to buy a home before she returns to the States. After all, Gilbert wanted her American friends to see evidence that this woman’s life was changed. Long story short, Gilbert’s friends and lover convince her that the woman is scamming her. So, Gilbert concocts a lie that her friends will take back the money unless she buys a house before Gilbert leaves. She takes the bait.

So why is Gilbert a typical, dumb Westerner? Not because she was supposedly getting scammed by a suspicious, poor, local woman. She thought her money could fix everything–including what she perceived to be a flawed, backwards culture. And shall I also ask, why perform this act of kindness and include it in your bestselling book? I wonder if she’s sending royalties to the woman and her daughter who helped make her book such a success. Perhaps Gilbert also passed along Oprah’s other favorite book, The Secret, so they could find a way to pay the property taxes on that nice, new house in Bali.

Finally, let me make it known that I didn’t choose to read Eat, Pray, Love recreationally or because I belong to the Church of Oprah (because I don’t); it was required reading. While I could write a book’s worth of material about why I think Oprah is poisoning the minds of countless individuals, I’ll leave that for another time.

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37 Responses to “Why I hate Eat, Pray, Love”

  1. Wayan Suri said

    this happened everywhere, the same problem, the same trick

    • Mack said

      AMEN! I read this book right as I went through my divorce at (EEK) 27. I did many of the same things this idiot did- as many people do period when grieving. Too bad I didn’t have a book agent and my husband had only wanted a family instead of bedding every woman on his aircrew.

      Why should some piece of driveling crap be lauded as “great” just because it’s been on the NYT as a best seller for a year- doesn’t mean it is. Think critically much anyone?

      Now they are making a movie about this starring Julia Roberts. Lovely.

      PUKE. What a jerk this author is- truly. Who wouldn’t give their teeth for such a nice comfortable life- I’m sure many of the Balinese and Indian folks she so spiritually communed with would have packed their bags and traded places in a minute.

      Typical western garbage view.

  2. Old Man said

    You got some of your facts wrong. The book was a NYT best seller for months before Oprah jumped on the bandwagon. And it is not an Oprah book club selection, check Oprah’s website. Perhaps you are right about the dumb westerner buying Wyan a house. But Wyan can always sell the house and go back to her abusive ex-husband and hand to mouth existence. BTW: I hear Wyan is thriving in her new home and successful healing business.
    Can’t wait to read your book, I am sure it will be great even if Oprah does read it:

  3. James said

    Agree times 100. I almost hate Oprah as much as Bono.

  4. Angela said

    I must say that I largely agree with the synopsis here about the book, “Eat, Pray, Love”. I am not known among my friends for reading this type of book, but two of the real beloved’s pressed it on me; saying how much they got from it in terms of spirituality. So I put aside my prejudice against self-help-spiritualy-books and read it. I honestly wanted to like it, for their sake, and because I like happy, upbeat ideas. But I found it dreary – and it seemed to lack the following:
    1. although the descriptions of God in the very beginning were great, there was no further spirituality in the book. In fact, the author didn’t seem to acquire any, and only [seemed to be] interested in ‘being happy’. Surely there is a measure of ‘helping the other to be happy’ in spiritualism. She forged a relationship with God that did nobody but her any good. And I doubt it was as satisfying as she says, because it’s so limited (to just her and God). A party of two is what she found, her and God, her and her friend, her and her lover, her and the kid…
    2. she wasn’t very compassionate outside her own circle. If she’d widened her ethics or even just grown in concern and empathy I would have liked it more. She was ok with being spriritual but eating veal. ??? She (as you mentioned) pressed her lifestyle (but no understanding) on others.
    3. it was well written, but too long – too much personal information – too boring.

    I have to tell my friends that I find books about ethics superior to asia-trend-spirituality books.

    The printing of this book involved the cutting down of many trees. That means soil deprivation, creatures losing their homes (and often lives), and a poorer planet. But people are talking as if this book is HELPING the planet. Perhaps it’s giving a pink ticket to bored housewives across America; saying it’s OK to navel-gaze and ‘have everything’. But it isn’t helping anyone else – human or non-human.

  5. noodle said

    this book was terrible. terrible. terrible.

  6. Miguel Sedamano Ballesteros said

    I just love this comment about the trash of “Eat Pray, love” I started to read it, and every time, I don’t see any spirituality or literary quality.
    The case is, we are living in a culture of image, and consumism, without paying attention to quality. We are accustomed to consume what others force us to consume. What the western “Guru” Oprah is doing the american minds is just painful and absurd. There’s no any serious bookclub, recommending just false literature and intellectual garbage. “The Secret” “The Power of Now” for mention some few of them.
    Elizabeth Gilbert is just another failure of our consumist Literature. Her feminism is insulting, her spirituality is grotesque, and her social interpretation about the poverty in India and in Bali are shallow, and ridicule. On the other hand, her social interpretation of Italy, India and Bali don’t show any research’s source. It’s mere description, with femenist/radical vision about what is the best for women’s condition.
    Unfortunately we live in a society who consume “bestsellers”…which is very relative to excellent masterpieces in Literature. “Eat, Pray and Love” is another version of junk Literature, with Zero analysis and common sense about the real social problems worldwide.

  7. Cali said

    I not sure I’ve ever read a book that infuriated me more than Eat, Pray, Love. After reading an article on the Times about the sequel, Committed, I typed “I hate eat, pray, love” and found this posting. Thank god someone is writing to denigrate that trashy-ass book. I found it self-aggrandizing, gratuitous, predictable and chronically unfunny. Can’t wait for the million copies of Committed to hit the subway. Thanks Viking.

  8. Grandma said

    I thought I was the only person in the world who wanted to smack Miss “Look How Lovely and Adventurous AND SPIRITUAL I Am” upside the head with a rusty empty water tin filled with outdated food vouchers and dirty diapers. I can be spiritual, too, if I flee one cushy, safety-netted life into another, boink a hottie, don’t have to go to work, and can use other people’s dough to bring about the change I want to see in the world. Is this self-indulgent soap-opera posturing Julie-Roberts Hollywood vehicle what mass culture calls “enlightenment”? Apparently so. God help us all.

    Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for facing the hypocrisies and dishonesties in one’s self and one’s life. I’m all for taking risks to make change. I’m just not convinced that’s what happened here. And I know suffering is relative. I just don’t think she does.

    And maybe the book gets wonderful, and redeems itself past the point where I had to stop reading. I wonder if I’ll ever know?

    • Kim said

      I could have written this reply! I’ve had the book from my library for 3 weeks, and need to return it today, as someone else has it on hold (I think I’ll include a little sticky note in the book with this website at the point where I left off!). I’m almost done with the Italy section, but this book is just not grabbing me. I just can’t get past the hypocrises and agree with you 100% where you state that suffering is relative.
      I could go on, but gee, I have responsibilities to which I must attend…that’s kinda how life has been for most of human history. If you have too much time to devote to the whiny search of self, then perhaps you’re not contributing enough to the society without which you would not be here. Glad I found this essay!

  9. glott said

    I typed in “piece of trash” this book came up. I didn’t even know what Eat, Pray Love was about until I read your review. Just another book to avoid; appreiate the warning.

  10. wordofprey said

    First of all, there should have been a spoiler alert – just starting On Indonesia part.
    Now that I am done with my gripe, I can tell that I completely agree with you saying the book is unbelievable garbage.
    I picked the book because of three things:
    1. Everyone was talking about it
    2. I love love food, adore yoga and want to go to Bali
    3. I am of similar age as the author was when she began questioning her marriage and I wondered if I could relate to her “early thirties life crisis”.

    But the food writing was laughable and her complete disinterest in art and museums was downright insulting.
    As for yoga, all I can say is that she is a complete fraud. I’ve practiced yoga for 10 years and have gone to India myself. To tell us that she reaches an actual enlightenment and understands the workings of the Universe is an insult to the entire history of Buddhism and yoga. To reach enlightenment in one’s lifetime is an achievement of great magnitude, and for her to claim that she so easily slipped into the state of the union of with divinity, between her dwelling on her ex and drafting the grand plans of being the bestest meditator in the wolrd, is a laughable. In the beginning of the book, she tells a story of Buddha who one day understood what the life is all about but immediately saw that that knowledge was almost impossible to teach and incredibly hard to master….People spend lifetimes meditating in caves and not all reach enlightenment! What a liar!

  11. I am glad to find this blog.
    I don’t think the book is helpful at all.

    I have a friend who fears committment, so has decided to go off to Canada, because she was inspired by the book, and is leaving a gorgeous guy who is besotted with her. Not that she is doing the wrong thing, but I think this book breeds unsureness … uncertainty … and one bit of panic and you have to run!

    I wish I didn’t read it, as at the time it put doubts in my head. Which I really regret.
    i think it would place those seeds of doubt in alot of women. I think that is sad. I wish she had of stayed with her husband and worked through it with God. I would have liked to hear that story. Or I just wish that she didn’t focus the book so much around her relationships with men. As if it solved her problems.

    • Zee said

      Wow. You hit the spot on that. I totally agree with you that she should’ve stayed with her husband.. and worked it out with him and had a family. I actually think that whatever she did was totally counter-productive and that I believe that one gets what he gets and should say “Thank you”
      it’s not like her husband was abusing her…
      So what if she didn’t love him?? love gets built day by day-

  12. Linda said

    I feel much better now that I know I’m not the only one that couldn’t stand that book. I’ll finish reading it cause I’m a very persistent person. But it’s hard

  13. Sally said

    I am almost finished listening to this book on CD…and let me tell you, if you think reading it was awful, trying LISTENING to Ms. Gilbert as she drones on in an “aren’t I charming” tone and attempts Texas, Balinese, and Irish accents. Puleeze.

    Unfortunately I can’t stop a book once I’ve started it, although to tell you the truth it’s been cathartic to exorcise my road rage by talking back at her inane, self-absorbed droning during my commute.

    I don’t hate this book because she got paid to travel the globe – good for her. I hate this book because it isn’t interesting. She gives us no reason whatsoever to care about her. She doesn’t tell the truth about her affair, she never examines herself. She just prays and keeps pointing out how words are like other words and how amazingly spiritual “coincidences” keep happening to her, as if she’s god’s special pet.

    And her pseudo self-deprecating remarks are NOT clever…they only underscore what a self-serving book this is. How any person could get any value out of it is beyond me.

    Thanks for letting me rant. Everyone I know who’s read this book LOVES it, which is forcing me to reconsider my opinion of their intellects.

    • liz said

      Yes, it’s so disturbing that you are forced to reassess your friends’ right mind… I am always the only one who hates this book, the selfishness, the vanity, the stupid pseudo-spirituality. Thank you for speaking your mind.

  14. kate nyc said

    I thought I was the only one who wanted to burn this book. Words can’t describe how much I hated EPL, but yours summed it up perfectly. It made me ashamed to be an American woman because we’re better, smarter and STRONGER than this drivel.

  15. jim g. said

    eat. pray. spend.

    movies like this disgust me. typical self-indulgent western drivel. she was in crisis?? REALLY? i think she was just imature and growing up. sheesh. gimme a break.

  16. I had to google hate eat pray love just to find out whether I was all alone in the world. This book depressed me no end. The Italy section was funny and fine. But her behavior in the ashram was simply unforgivable, and worst of all, she seemed to have no clue of it. What a narcissist. The idea that she could show up at some poor elderly man’s door in Bali and expect further — what? What was she expecting? It was all so artificial. I did finish reading it. Then I was depressed for days, and sorry that I had allowed any of her world into my head. Why, why is this book so popular? All I see is another entitled Ugly American.

  17. Les said

    Finally. I found someone else who loathes this book and Ophrah’s sick influence. Thank you.

  18. Kathy said

    I am so glad that I found this site. I love books and will read most anything. Eat,Pray,Love was the biggest load of crap. I just wanted to slap her. I got as far as pray and then had to stop before I got to the point where I was afraid that I might need to commit myself to a residential treatment center.

  19. Onely said

    Like many commenters, I found this post by googling “I hate Eat Pray Love”. I didn’t loathe the book, although I was puzzled that so many people loooooved it sooooo much that they even made pilgrimages based on it. (What, you think of your own original place to pilgrimage? Sad.) I enjoyed it the way I enjoy reading People magazine and eating peanut butter cups–I’m aware it’s kind of trashy but it’s fun for a little while, even though I know I’m going to feel sick to my stomach afterward.

    So what’s really bothering me NOW is all this endless EPL marketing. Gilbert needs to have more self respect and respect for her art. An EPL PERFUME? Hm, I wonder how you bottle narcissism and privilege.
    Christina

  20. Jane said

    I,too, googled “hate eat pray love” and found these wonderful comments. I felt the same way about the vile “Bridges of Madison County.” I never mentioned how much I despised this book but the release of the movie has gotten me riled up again. So good to know my opinion of this bogus book has been validated.

  21. Duggles said

    This book convinced me that new-age, quasi-“Eastern” spirituality is actually just the “spiritual” justification for the intense narcissism of idiot yuppie women. How self-satisfaction and infantile egocentrism became the virtue par excellence of contemporary American culture certainly is something to look at. Got to love an ideology that condones self-indulgence (buying shoes, spa treatments, etc.) as a bona fide spiritual practice. Yay Oprah. Way to turn a former feminist into a misogynist.

  22. Hail said

    Wow I am actually starting to wanting to read this book! Don’t know how or why but read the book review on Amazon and was amused by love/hate reviews about the book. Looks like half the women love and half hate, for some reason I found hate-reviews helpful. I read the film review from an Indian guy saying he has instinctive reflex reaction on the books written about white people finding a spiritual enlightenment in the brown countries and says he almost prefer the old colonians with pith helmet trampling Empire’s outposts because at least they’re are honest about their dealings. These days no gold no cottons no spices but they use the word “journey” when it is all about WHAT THEY CAN GET. They want to eat, shoot films (or write books), emote and leave. They want the food, the spirituality, the romance.

    And he wonders so where do Indians and Indonesians go when they lost their passions or faith? lol

    What a right-on-spot comment! Maybe I find so because I am a Japanese woman in 30-something living in South East Asia for over 13 years. I do see a lot of “this kind” here.

    To be honest, I did have a wonderful “escape” trip to Nepal few years back. Had a teenage-felt-like crash on a boy too but no sex! I didn’t cheat on my partner though our relationship was in the pitfall. I know what it’s like to dream of a escape to exotic countries and I know what it’s like to have it done. But in the end, I am proud that I didn’t run away like she did.

    What she experienced is what she experienced so I won’t judge but I find it too funny that this book is a million seller and “encouraging” many women in the world.

    If I happen to have the book for free I may start reading just to see what it’s like but, I think I am done dreaming or fantasizing what she has done!

  23. Deanna said

    Hi all,
    I also googled ‘hate eat pray love,’ and am grateful for the company here. I was feeling really sad & alienated by all the rave reviews for this book. I found it unbelievably hokey, fake, self-serving and dishonest. I do not trust the narrator in the slightest, or her supposed love for the universe, and think it is the slickest piece of marketing I’ve seen in some time. Lowest denominator all the way, from miracles from God to Brazilian sex slave and everything inbetween. Like the worst, interminable bragging xmas letter you’ve ever read. For me, the hurl moment came when she relates her friend’s comment that “this is what it all came down to for you….(I’m paraphrasing)…..you went out into the world to help yourself and you ended up helping everyone!!) In fact I was waiting breathlessly for half the book to see what her measly little act of charity would be. What about the poor old guy who mentions his lack of teeth to her every time they get together? (isn’t that cute?) She manages to do a little photocopying for him and thinks she’s an angel of mercy. I just don’t even have the words. Solidarity people of taste and discernment! This is definitely crap. Not of the very lowest order (there were some bits I liked, despite everything) but nonetheless definitely CRAP.

    • BRONTE said

      Amazing! That’s exacting what it was like –”like the worst, interminable bragging xmas letter you’ve ever read.” Good call.

  24. Tach1koma said

    I am currently in the movie theater watching this miserable self serving drek. I came to see it to indulge my mother. I’m trying to think of creative ways to tell her how much I loath this story without offending her. At first I was apathetic about Liz, but about half way into the movie I began to hate her. Essentially she goes from a rich cushy life where beautiful men want her despite her absolute lack of personality, to living an even easier life where everyone seems to think she is exceptional for being the most narcissistic person in the world. My mom is loving it sadly.

    *Apparently she isn’t taking me to any more movies because I’m writing this review instead of watching this movie. (I hope she keeps that promise.)*

  25. Andrea said

    After watching the movie this weekend, I googled: Oprah Eat Pray Love to find answers. I remember back when Oprah had the author on her show, I felt uncomfortable with the message behind the book. However, the movie has Julia in it, and therefore the message was more palatable this time. But, instinctively I knew that the real message of this book was not for me, based on the fact that she went to India to pray.
    As someone who grew up watching and loving Oprah for more than 20 years, I finally broke off from the web of lies in the Fall of 2008. Her “we are the world” version of religion deeply disturbs me. Her denial of Jesus Christ has made me want to become an activist against her.
    After reading this post and then reading your “I’m a Sunday School Teacher…” post (which was very empowering), I was wondering if you would write more about this topic. I’d like to find a way to begin reversing the damage that Oprah has done to our country.

    • tyrone said

      why is america finished as a industrial superpower? because of the “jesus people”.

    • ELBSeattle said

      This just in: ‘Jesus Christ’ is a figment of your imagination. Just because you really really believe your imaginary friend is real doesn’t mean he is.

  26. Ryan L. Hansen said

    Andrea,

    While I wrote the Sunday School post, my wife actually authored this one. Thanks for your interest. Right now I am in the midst of taking my PhD comprehensive exams, so that’s why the blog has been quiet for so long. Stay tuned, as soon as I am done in a couple weeks I’ll resume writing.

    I agree with your assessment of pop-religion on the general populace. I see similar effects on Christianity from the mass-market “call to God” that Glenn Beck is currently peddling. What I don’t understand is that Christians don’t see that the person making the call matters just as much as the call itself. A message does not just float out in the ether, untethered to the story and particularities of the one who delivers it. If this goes for Jesus (his teachings assume his identity as the human-divine Son of God) it must go also for the Mormon Glenn Beck. I will say more about this later.

    Thanks for reading.

  27. NixiNoxi said

    Worst book ever. Pure drivel. All the 30-somethings at my office LOOOOVE it; it “speaks” to them. Ugh. I stopped reading 1/2 way through the India chapter. I was sick of her whining & complaining…I’m so fat; life is so hard for me; I’m confused. Ugh…so boring. Ten years from now she’ll read that book and say, “EEEWWWW, I wrote THAT?” She’ll be horrified and burn it some winter night just like many of us do with our journals/diaries from long ago.

  28. Natasha Gaitonde said

    I just finished reading this book and I can’t agree more with you…it is a piece of crap. She could have saved us all the trouble and reduced her book to 3 chapters, one on each country. You raised an interesting question about whether she is paying royalties to the “deceitful” Indonesian healer who’s story she has told the whole world. Seriously a waste of time.

  29. Karen C. said

    How anyone could find Gilbert’s self-aggradizing drek helpful is beyond me. I was given EPL as a gift meant to inspire me during a difficult time.
    I was dismayed that such a badly written exercise in narcissism would be so popular.
    The movie coming out has stirred up my anger at this book once again. Everything about it is offensive, from her preachy, over-simplification of spirituality, to her countless “aren’t-I-something?” winks at the reader.
    In India she writes “I have BECOME a prayer.”
    Grandiose much?
    A few pages before that, she writes “maybe I don’t need to talk about myself quite so constantly.”
    Unfortunately, it’s not an insight that sticks.

  30. Jo said

    She reminds me of the trash that shacked with John Edwards. Self-absorbed, thinks she’s some kind of Western feminist guru (puke), has no morals, pushes others to disrespect their own marriage vows, completely lacks real self-reflection, relies on men and sex and ego-driven ‘spirituality’ (sans any real religion) as a cure, and views the world through an Orientalist lense.

    This is what it means to be a ‘strong’ woman?

    Dear Lord.

    Everything that’s wrong with the world.

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