Two factors obviously contributed to the success of Eat, Pray, Love. Firstly, the book is targeted to women of a certain age who are experiencing some life transition or dissatisfaction, a demographic that makes up a huge slice of the avid-reader pie. This is hardly an insult. Men of a certain age experiencing some life transition or dissatisfaction tend to prefer drinking, fishing and playing with a revolver. Current literary culture mostly exists because the ladies exist.
Now, I'm not the kind of guy who would eat meat riddled with maggots just to avoid being judgmental. So, her willingness to embrace almost any notion that comes from an Asian guru is a little over the top for me. No problem. If moving to Bali because it was foretold in a palm-reading by a shaman who takes credit cards is your style, God bless you my child.
Like most travelers, Elizabeth wanders to discover herself, the world, and a higher reality. She does a lot of self discovery here, plus a little cross-cultural discovery, although she has much more interaction with fellow expatriates and locals connected to expatriates than serious cultural immersion. This is more memoir than travel lit. Regarding higher power, she does an exceptional job of clarifying why even the most nonreligious soul should seek to know whatever there is to know about ultimate reality. That is a worthy feat.
On the other hand, she seems to confuse the concept of a god with that of a genie, who blesses you when you pop the cork then goes back where she belongs when you tell her you need a break. This is not so surprising. Gilbert comes from my heady culture, where leaders constantly say "God bless America," when they probably should say, "Stop spoiling us so much, until our gratitude and character catches up."
However, if you think Mohammed, Siddhartha and Moses should have told Allah, Krishna and Yahweh, "I really do appreciate your help, but please keep your advice to yourself," then charming Elizabeth is a user-friendly guiding light to a user-friendly god-lite, offering 33% less commandments than a regular god. What's not to love about that?
Nevertheless, if you're ready to move beyond spiritual baby-steps to spiritual growth anabolic steroids and you can tolerate a guru who is neither relatable, humble, nor socially presentable (but I did shave for the cover photo), let me recommend you put my new book Fresh Wind & Strange Fire on your shelf. Place it somewhere between The Bible and Justin Bieber's autobiography.