“You need to read this!” My friend plopped down beside me and tossed a worn-out book into my lap. Eat, Pray, Love. “One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, an Indonesia”. I humored her and took my time looking at the cover, all the while wondering whether I really wanted to read about one woman’s search for happiness. Wasn’t it hard enough keeping track of my own? I couldn’t have known that I would bring my worn-out copy to college five months later.

***

How often do you say you are “fine”? You know, you aren’t great, but you aren’t bad. You are just… fine. It seems like the perfect in between type of word. What does it really mean? Fucked-up, Insecure, Emotional, and Neurotic (or so I have heard). Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break from being “fine”? From homework, jobs, school, and social expectations? You become sick of drinking “enough of that damn Saint-John’s-wort tea to cheer up a whole Russian gulag” and all you want to say when someone asks you, “How are you?” is “I’m happy.”

That was Elizabeth Gilbert’s goal. Following a painful divorce and struggling with depression, she devoted one year of her life to Eating, Praying, and Loving. To Pleasure, Devotion, and Balance. But this is not a story about only herself. It is a universal story of self-discovery, and by using her own travels as an example, Elizabeth stresses how finally finding happiness on this journey changed her life.

The book encourages the reader to “self-interview” him- or herself with the most important question: “What are you really here for and what is stopping you from doing it?” Once these beginning steps of self-discovery are taken, a miraculous journey will unfold on its own. Elizabeth Gilbert started her journey by learning Italian in her New York City bathtub, and eventually found her way to the best gelateria and pizzeria in Italy.

For Elizabeth, learning about herself included taking a spiritual journey (not to be confused with religious journey). She started her relationship with God with the words: “‘Hello, God. How are you? I’m Liz. It’s nice to meet you.'” It is not God, precisely, or Allah, Shiva, Braham, Vishnu or Zeus; when asked, “‘What kind of God do you believe in?’ her answer is simple: ‘I believe in a magnificent God.'”

Following her traumatic divorce and post-divorce affair, Elizabeth had to learn to find happiness by loving herself before loving anyone else. By the end of her journey, however, she finds more to love than just herself. Eat, Pray, Love, a New York Times best-seller, is an honest, funny, and encouraging book, especially for young women.

If not already curious, I hope that one of my favorite quotes from the book will entice you to buy a copy the next time you amble through the Student Store. Upon Elizabeth’s question of the difference between Heaven and Hell, Ketut, the medicine man, answers, “Same-same…Heaven, you go up, through seven happy places. Hell, you go down, through seven sad places. This is why it better for you to go up…”

By Vicky Waldthausen