This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers.Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali. By turns rapturous and rueful, this wise and funny author (whom Booklist calls "Anne Lamott's hip, yoga- practicing, footloose younger sister? is poised to garner yet more adoring fans.
Chapter One I wish Giovanni would kiss me. Oh, but there are so many reasons why this would be a terrible idea. To begin with, Giovanni is ten years younger than I am, and-like most Italian guys in their twenties-he still lives with his mother. These facts alone make him an unlikely romantic partner for me, given that I am a professional American woman in my mid-thirties, who has just come through a failed marriage and a devastating, interminable divorce, followed immediately by a passionate love affair that ended in sickening heartbreak. This loss upon loss has left me feeling sad and brittle and about seven thousand years old. Purely as a matter of principle I wouldnt inflict my sorry, busted-up old self on the lovely, unsullied Giovanni. Not to mention that I have finally arrived at that age where a woman starts to question whether the wisest way to get over the loss of one beautiful brown-eyed young man is indeed to promptly invite another one into her bed. This is why I have been alone for many months now. This is why, in fact, I have decided to spend this entire year in celibacy. To which the savvy observer might inquire: ＂Then why did you come to Italy?＂ To which I can only reply-especially when looking across the table at handsome Giovanni-＂Excellent question.＂ Giovanni is my Tandem Exchange Partner. That sounds like an innuendo, but unfortunately its not. All it really means is that we meet a few evenings a week here in Rome to practice each others languages. We speak first in Italian, and he is patient with me; then we speak in English, and I am patient with him. I discovered Giovanni a few weeks after Id arrived in Rome, thanks to that big Internet café at the Piazza Barbarini, across the street from that fountain with the sculpture of that sexy merman blowing into his conch shell. He (Giovanni, that is-not the merman) had posted a flier on the bulletin board explaining that a native Italian speaker was seeking a native English speaker for conversational language practice. Right beside his appeal was another flier with the same request, word-for-word identical in every way, right down to the typeface. The only difference was the contact information. One flier listed an e-mail address for somebody named Giovanni; the other introduced somebody named Dario. But even the home phone number was the same. Using my keen intuitive powers, I e-mailed both men at the same time, asking in Italian, ＂Are you perhaps brothers?＂ It was Giovanni who wrote back this very provocativo message: ＂Even better. Twins!＂ Yes-much better. Tall, dark and handsome identical twenty-five-year-old twins, as it turned out, with those giant brown liquid-center Italian eyes that just unstitch me. After meeting the boys in person, I began to wonder if perhaps I should adjust my rule somewhat about remaining celibate this year. For instance, perhaps I could remain totally celibate except for keeping a pair of handsome twenty-five-year-old Italian twin brothers as lovers. Which was slightly reminiscent of a friend of mine who is vegetarian except for bacon, but nonetheless ... I was already composing my letter to Penthouse: In the flickering, candlelit shadows of the Roman café, it was impossible to tell whose hands were caress-But, no. No and no. I chopped the fantasy off in mid-word. This was not my moment to be seeking romance and (as day follows night) to further complicate my already knotty life. This was my moment to look for the kind of healing and peace that can only come from solitude. Anyway, by now, by the middle of November, the shy, studious Giovanni and I have become dear buddies. As for Dario-the more razzle-dazzle swinger brother of the two-I have introduced him to my adorable little Swedish friend Sofie, and how theyve been sharing their evenings in Rome is another kind of Tandem Exchange altogether. But Giovanni and I, we only talk. Well, we eat and we talk. We have been eating and talking for many pleasant weeks now, sharing pizzas and gentle grammatical corrections, and tonight has been no exception. A lovely evening of new idioms and fresh mozzarella.