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What are you reading?

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.”

Tell me about it.

“It’s about Gilbert’s journey. At the beginning of the book, she is in a really hard marriage. Her husband really wants to have kids, and she believes it’s her duty, but she doesn’t want to have them. So they get a divorce, and Gilbert ends up going on a one-year journey through Italy, India, and Indonesia — spending four months in each place. In Italy, she eats. She doesn’t care about her dress size. She eats whatever she wants, lots of bread and pasta. Then she goes and spends four months in India. There, she prays in an ashram, a place to go for spiritual healing. She writes about starting to meditate really early in the morning, and about not talking, only praying. She was being in her own self, learning to deal with her inner demons, learning not to let her emotions get the best of her. And in Indonesia, she goes to a spiritual healer named Ketut. With his help, she heals herself and becomes ready to love again.”

What did you make of the story?

“I think she was just trying to prove that it’s okay to be alone. Through her spiritual journey, she realizes that she needs to be okay with herself before she can love anyone else. Also, it’s okay to find your own happiness — you don’t need someone else to make you happy.”

Did you have a favorite person in the book?

“In the ashram, Gilbert meets a Texan man. He and she have both been through a lot of things, spiritually — but mostly, he’s just really funny.”

Tell me about the writing style.

“The writing is humorous, but I could relate to her in a bunch of different ways. I thought, ‘She’s one of us — a woman who has gone through heartbreak and is trying to find herself.’”

Do you have a favorite passage?

“Gilbert offers a lot of lessons. There is one where she quotes Virginia Woolf. It reads, ‘Across the broad continent of a woman’s life falls the shadow of a sword. On one side of the sword lies convention, tradition, and order, where all is correct. But on the other side of that sword, if you’re crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, all is confusing. Nothing follows a regular course.’ Her argument is that crossing the shadow of the sword may bring a far more interesting experience to a woman, but you can bet that it will also be more perilous. Gilbert is using Woolf to say that you can do what a woman is supposed to do — have kids, get married, be a housewife — or not. But if you don’t, you’re going into territory that is looked down on. It’s really not okay to be that woman in our society. But at least you won’t be dreading who you became.”

Compare this with other books you’ve read.

“It’s not really like others I’ve read. This one has touched me more than others.”

What book has been most life-changing for you?

“Actually, this one. I’m going into the Navy, and it’s not conventional for a woman to be joining the service, per se. This book helped me go from not realizing what life was all about to realizing that I should be happy, because life is too short to dwell on the small things. It also made me realize that it’s okay to try something and fail, and then try something else.”

Do you have a favorite author?

“I like Sarah Dessen. She writes teenage romance novels. She’s good at writing from the perspective of someone my age — even though she’s an older woman.”

What magazines or newspapers do you read?

“I read Cosmopolitan and People cover to cover.”

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