The Eat Pray Love Journey Begins With Heartbreak

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the Eat Pray Love journey about? Why does Elizabeth Gilbert embark on this journey in the first place?

In Eat Pray Love, the journey is what matters, not the destination. In fact, Elizabeth Gilbert has three destinations, and each one teaches her something important about life.

Find out why Elizabeth Gilbert began her Eat Pray Love journey.

The Eat Pray Love Journey: Loss and Divorce

For nearly two months, Gilbert snuck out of bed each night in her home in Upstate New York that she shared with her husband. She hid in the bathroom, feeling ashamed, confused, and guilty about wanting to be free of her marriage. One night, she became so overwhelmed that she cried and prayed for the first time in her life. She asked God for help and a sign of what to do. Suddenly, she heard a voice. It sounded like her voice but also different. The voice told her to go to bed and rest. She would need it for what was to come, and the Eat Pray Love journey she didn’t know about yet.

Seven months later, Gilbert separated from her husband. She wanted the divorce to be amicable, but her husband was too hurt. He refused all settlement offers and held her hostage in the marriage for years. Gilbert was confused, alone, and saddened by her husband’s hatred of her, but her spirits were lifted by a new love—David. 

Gilbert fell hard and fast for David. Her husband had taken both their house and apartment in the city, so she moved into David’s Manhattan apartment right away. Their love was passionate and playful, but things changed after 9/11. The stress of her divorce and the attack on her city was too much for Gilbert, and she became needy. The more she needed David’s love, the more he withheld it. 

Seeking Solace

After her first breakup with David, Gilbert fell into a deep depression. She became suicidal and started taking antidepressants. The only thing that helped was her newfound interest in an Indian Yogi Guru. She started to learn about meditation and decided she wanted to visit this Guru’s Ashram one day. 

During this time, Gilbert also started learning Italian. She’d always wanted to, and now seemed as good a time as ever. She found so much joy speaking the sensual Italian words and phrases, she wondered what immersing herself in the culture might do for her. She also visited Bali during this time on assignment for a magazine. While there, she met a medicine man who read her palm. He said she didn’t need to worry so much. She would lose everything, including all her money, but she would get it all back. He also said she would come back to visit him again and teach him English.  She didn’t know it then, but it was the beginning of her Eat Pray Love journey.

When Gilbert returned home, she hatched a plan. She would visit Italy, India, and Indonesia over the course of a year to find pleasure in life and a spiritual awakening. She saw the common letter “I” as an auspicious sign. Her husband finally agreed to a settlement, in which he took all of her money, but she was free. Her book publisher gave her an advance to write about her year-long Eat Pray Love journey. The medicine man was right—her life was looking up already. 

The Eat Pray Love Journey Begins With Heartbreak

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Eat Pray Love summary:

  • Why Elizabeth Gilbert needed to divorce her husband
  • How she was able to find joy again in Italy
  • How Gilbert was able to find balance with Felipe

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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