The Daily Mail has a new article on the ten year anniversary of Eat Pray Love (EPL): Eat pray love (and walk out on your husband): It’s the bestseller that inspired a generation to transform their lives. But it left behind a trail of broken relationships
The focus of the article is on the “empowerment” the book and later movie lead to at the cost of broken families. But this is the text. If you look at the pictures the most striking aspect of the story is that all of these women are alone. None of them are pictured with their secret multimillionaire hunky handy man. One of the three women featured managed a short marriage to a retiree before he tragically caught a virus and died. The other two women weren’t actually married when they decided to EPL, and neither of them describes a current man in their life.
Then the article turns to the author of EPL, Elizabeth Gilbert. Unlike the three women who followed her EPL prescription Gilbert is remarried. But like the other women in the article, Gilbert is pictured alone. Why is that? The power of EPL is not that Gilbert managed to dump her loyal husband and travel to Europe and India. Being rewarded with cash and prizes for betraying your marriage vows is something the US and UK offers all wives. The power of EPL is that betraying her marriage vows not only made Gilbert more moral, it also allowed her to trade up to a better husband*. Gilbert appeared to have defied the odds and stuck the landing.
The obvious answer to Gilbert being pictured alone is that her remarriage was no more a trade up than her divorce made her more moral. In real life “Filipe” is 17 years older than Elizabeth, and appears to be shorter than her. Featuring 46 year old Elizabeth with the mid sixties “Filipe” doesn’t fit with the image of the story. The Daily Mail author doesn’t comment on the real Filipe, but she closes the article hinting at the disconnect between the EPL fantasy and reality:
Reading the book again I can’t help question whether Gilbert may have done as much harm as good for those following in her footsteps. There are of course inherent problems in trying to emulate someone’s else’s road to redemption, not least of all the inevitable disappointment when one discovers there aren’t enough Javier Bardems lurking at the end of the rainbow.
*The Kendrick brothers were shrewd enough to sell a similar story of divorce empowerment leading to a new round of courtship, a better husband, and spiritual rebirth in the Christian movie Fireproof.