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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Who is Wayan Nuriyasih? What was her role in Eat Pray Love?
Wayan Nuriyasih was a healer that Elizabeth met in Bali. The two women quickly became close friends, but the friendship, unfortunately, ended on bad terms.
Read more about Wayan Nuriyasih and Eat Pray Love.
Wayan Nuriyasih: Destiny Steps In
Wayan Nuriyasih in Eat Pray Love was another Balinese healer. She worked out of a small shop in the center of Ubud that doubled as a restaurant. She was an attractive woman with long dark hair. Gilbert had passed the shop every day on her way to Ketut’s, but she never stopped until that day. She showed Wayan her knee, and the medicine woman went to work.
Wayan made Gilbert a tea of herbs and placed a green goo and leaves on her wound. Gilbert’s pain lessened instantly. Wayan spoke excellent English, and she and Gilbert struck up a conversation. Gilbert was surprised to learn that Wayan was also divorced. Divorce in Balinese culture was considered very distressing. The women found common ground, and Wayan told Gilbert her story.
Wayan had been married to an abusive alcoholic who beat her severely. If not for her healing powers, she likely would have suffered permanent physical damage. When she miscarried her second child after a beating, she left him. In Balinese customs, all generations of families live in compounds, like Ketut’s. If you divorce, you must leave the compound and are set adrift with no resources or connections. If you are a woman, you automatically lose custody of your children.
Wayan sold all her possessions and used her savings to hire a lawyer. After two years of fighting, she was granted custody of her small daughter, Tutti. The two moved often to search for new business, but they were happy to be together.
Gilbert fell in love with both Wayan and 8-year-old Tutti right away. She felt a strong powerful sensation from Wayan that infected her own energy. She changed her daily routine to now include visits with Wayan. Wayan was sassy and quick-witted, and she could tell Gilbert hadn’t had sex in a long time. She said she would go to the temple and pray for Gilbert to find a lover.
A Future Comes Into View: Live Decides to Help Wayan Nuriyasih
Gilbert was given a reprieve from her dismal thoughts when she arrived at Wayan’s shop the morning after the party. Wayan had received word that her lease was up in a few months and the rent would be raised. She’d have to move again, but she didn’t have any money or anywhere to go. And she’d have to take Tutti out of school again. Each move jeopardized the little girl’s chances of going to university to study veterinary medicine like she wanted.
What made matters worse were two orphans Wayan had taken in not long before. The two girls, both barely adolescents, had been trafficked street hustlers. They’d been under the thumb of an adult who made them beg and then took the money. Wayan found them starving and brought them home. She took care of them like they were her own. This act of compassion by a poor single mother was more than Gilbert could believe. She was in awe.
Gilbert noticed Tutti walking around the store with a small piece of blue tile in her hand. She chanted over it and sat on it in a corner for a long time. Wayan explained that Tutti had found the tile outside a hotel construction site. She brought it home and prayed that she and her family could have a beautiful tiled floor like that someday.
An electric current ran through Gilbert’s body. It was the same energy she’d felt the first time she met Wayan. She realized she’d wanted to help this magical woman but hadn’t known how then. Now, she did. All frivolous thoughts about men disappeared. She had a new mission.
A Little Help From Her Friends
Gilbert left the shop and went to the Internet cafe. She composed a message to her friends and family at home. Her birthday was coming up, and she told them that if she were home, she would have thrown some expensive party. They would have bought her expensive gifts. It would have been quite the scene. This year, she asked them to spend their money a different way.
In her letter, Gilbert explained about Wayan, her past, her children, and her current situation. She also told them that she was happier than she’d ever been and owed much of that to her friendship with Wayan. For her birthday that year, she asked everyone to help her buy Wayan a house. She promised to match whatever donations people could offer.
The next day, she found that her friends had already donated $700. The day after, the donations outgrew what she could match. Everyone chipped in, even if only $15. A friend’s boyfriend, who worked on Wall Street, offered to match the final sum. Then, people started to forward the email, and soon Gilbert was receiving donations from strangers.
At the end of the week, she’d raised $18,000, which was more than enough to build a house for Wayan’s family. A friend pointed out to Gilbert that Tutti meant “everybody” in Italian. Gilbert couldn’t believe she’d missed it. She’d set out into the world to help herself and wound up helping everybody.
Wayan Nuriyasih’s Love and Betrayal
The more Wayan Nuriyasih in Eat Pray Love refused the properties Gilbert and Felipe found, the more Gilbert started to wonder if she was receiving the full story from her friend. Again, she tried to infuse a sense of urgency about buying a house. She had less than two weeks left on the island. Again, Wayan said the process couldn’t be rushed.
However, a few days later, Wayan found a piece of land she liked. It had good taksu, was close to town, and was surrounded by rice fields. The owner was a friend of her father’s and needed money quickly. The land was the Balinese equivalent of 7 acres, and he was willing to sell her two of them. Gilbert told her to buy it immediately.
Another few days passed, and Wayan still hadn’t bought the land. Gilbert pressed her about it, and Wayan became evasive. She said the farmer’s wife wouldn’t let him sell part of the land. He had to sell the whole property. Wayan then said if she had a little more money, she could buy the whole thing, as a mystic had advised her to do. It was her destiny to own the land and start a healing center, and someday, maybe she could build a fancy hotel.
Gilbert couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She told Wayan she didn’t have more money to give. And after she heard the words “fancy hotel,” she suspected that she was getting played. Gilbert felt hurt and betrayed. She asked Felipe what he thought. Up to this point, Felipe had merely been a facilitator. He’d kept his opinions to himself. Now, he stated outright that Wayan was playing her.
Felipe told her not to be angry with Wayan. He’d lived on Bali long enough to realize that this type of behavior wasn’t intentional. It was a way of life. Everyone is so poor and tourists are so wealthy, it is second nature for the locals to try to squeeze every cent they can out of tourists before they leave. When Gilbert raised the $18,000, Wayan couldn’t help but become obsessed with the idea that more could be attained. It was her only understanding of how to survive. He said the best course of action would be to do something to snap Wayan’s thinking back to reality. It would be a great service to do so.
The next day, Gilbert told Wayan she was upset because her American friends were demanding answers. She said she was getting daily messages from angry friends who accused Wayan of stealing. Gilbert knew this would do the trick. The worst insult in Bali was to call someone a thief. They all hustled to make a living, but no one was ever called out for it.
Wayan grew emotional and apologized for putting Gilbert in a terrible position. Gilbert said she understood but would have to take the money back if Wayan didn’t find something that week. Of course, there was no legal way Gilbert could get the money back, but Wayan didn’t know that. It only took four hours for Wayan to call and say she bought the 2 acres from the farmer. The wife had apparently changed her mind.
The women exchanged affections, and Gilbert reassured her that all was well between them. After she hung up, she and Felipe opened a bottle of wine and celebrated. They could finally go on vacation.
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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