Category Archives: Memoirs

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Rating: 3/5 stars

This was the review I was writing that derailed me from blogging for 6 months. That is a preposterous proposition of course, since it wasn’t the review itself that stopped me from blogging (it isn’t that hard to come up with a few paragraphs to describe it), but this was the review I apparently did not feel too keen about finishing (and I do have to finish something once I’ve started it, even if that means I won’t have the drive to blog for 6 months).

But here we are. I will finish what I started. It doesn’t help that don’t remember what I was going to say 6 months ago about this book, or even details about the book beyond the general summary, but I did see the movie 2 weeks ago so I’ll combine my impressions. I won’t bother you with what happened since this book was a bestseller and the movie was well-viewed.

I will comment on the themes of the memoir though; first, here is the advice the book gives: when you feel stuck in your life, it is worth it to take yourself out of the environment that you feel traps you, whatever that is. For Liz, that environment was her first marriage, then her relationship with the actor guy.

This is understandable because there is something about relationships that can feel unnatural, and dissatisfaction with a relationship can easily lead to a soul-searching quest. At the same time, I do wonder what marriage means since, well, don’t you take public vows saying that you’ll stick with it until the very end?

This question is a natural reaction, and one that easily bears heavy for people who do feel stuck in their marriages (or relationships, but to a lesser degree since you don’t take vows). I’m not sure what the right course of action is, sometimes I’d like to think that if vows were taken, people should try to live up to them, especially when times are bad. This is not to say that no one can check out of a marriage (some circumstances should be allowed, don’t ask me to list them), but when you go through the whole hoopla of marrying someone, you’d think that the person you’re with is it. Now, is that natural, to just have one person in your life? Who knows? Probably not. But there is a give and take – you give up the freedom to be with anyone to take up the advantage of comfort.

Liz then goes to Italy, India and Indonesia in order to find herself after 2 soul-crushing relationships. And then she finds a man. This book begins and ends with men, which makes it interesting to think about. There is nothing wrong with wanting relationships with men, but the curious thing is that the book is billed as a journey of self-discovery, which somewhat passes for the second theme of the book, and one that isn’t obvious and arguable, but, is the journey of self-discovery just means preparing you to become the person that can attract the kind of person you want for life? I’m merely thinking out loud here but that seems fair to say.

So then, does the book advise that we do the same? I don’t think Liz aimed to prescribe anything. A memoir is just to detail a part of someone’s life, not to say that anyone should follow in that person’s footsteps. In general, the first “theme” of getting out to better know oneself is self-evident to better living. I question what I perceive to be the current underlying the river of the book (to use a metaphor, however lame), which is self-discovery, not only for oneself, but to attract.

I have to add here that I don’t think Liz went through her year of living abroad in order to find a man. I don’t impute that motive on her at all. I just think that it’s highly fascinating that the book ends with her in a relationship. She came full circle. She did learn new things while abroad, learned to enjoy life and to center herself, but I ask if those things are an end to themselves, or if they serve a larger purpose of making us a better mate to someone. There is nothing wrong with the latter, but it does sort of say something about human nature, doesn’t it?

Verdict:
If you haven’t read, you are not missing anything. But I wouldn’t say to skip entirely. It’s interesting, but not a must. Of course, this is a dated book and its 15 minutes in the limelight already passed, so unless you are in a relationship pickle or would like to read someone’s journey to self-discovery, there’s no need to pick it up to plug into society’s popular (I don’t mean popular as in highly talked about but more like pop culture) conversation about this book.

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Blankets by Craig Thompson

Rating: 4/5 stars because of the universal themes of coming of age and first love. The graphic novel format is a plus and adds to the perspective.
Length: 592 pages.
Synopsis:
This is a wonderful and funny book that I read earlier this year through the recommendation of Flashlight-worthy Books. The book is an illustrated novel, drawn in black and white and tells the story of the author’s relationship with his brother, his experiences in Christian youth camp and his first love. It’s hefty, coming at about 600 pages, but every page is worth it and once you’ve started, you won’t be able to put it down. The final read time for me must have been under 3 hours, max, since I breezed through it. You will too, once you get engrossed in the story.

What I like about this one is that it says a lot without clubbing you over the head with it. The author was coming to terms with his faith and what his religion says at a time when he was experiencing love for the first time. This theme isn’t new but the format of the book allows exploration of the topic without bogging you down with heavy descriptions and details. The graphic strips make you visualize the scenes, rather than imagine them, making you feel as if you’re witnessing the scenes happening (like a movie) without projecting yourself into the book and experiencing the scenes as if you are the author. This is a novel method because it makes the book pleasant overall, yet it can still make you feel that wrenching feeling when you sympathize with the characters at all the appropriate times.

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