I have not seen the movie, and in fact I was pretty embarrassed to buy the book after the movie was already out. I'm enough of a snob that I prefer to have read the book ages ago, before all this movie fuss, and to be able to say, "oh, they just ruined that book that I liked so much". In fact, I spent a ridiculous amount of time searching for a copy of this book with the "old" cover, instead of having Julia Roberts on it. Such is the price I pay for being behind the popular curve on this one.
I'm actually a bit surprised that it's such a bestseller, as it is an odd category of book - Spiritual Travel Memoir, really. For those (few) of you who haven't already read this or seen the movie, it is about a 30 something writer who is going through a nasty divorce and dysfunctional rebound relationship and becomes incredibly depressed. She seeks to become closer to God and find solutions to her unhappiness, and her publisher gives her an advance to go live for four months in Italy, then India, then Indonesia. The title comes from the fact that in Italy she Eats, in India she Prays, and in Indonesia she Loves.
She talks about God a lot in the book, but her exact religion is pretty fuzzy. She explains:
Traditionally, I have responded to the transcendent mystics of all religions. I have always responded with breathless excitement to anyone who has ever said that God does not live in a dogmatic scripture or in a distant throne in the sky, but instead abides very close to us indeed - much closer than we can imagine, breathing right through our own hearts. I respond with gratitude to anyone who has ever voyaged to the center of that heart, and who has then returned to the world with a report for the rest of us that God is an experience of supreme love.
The geography that she explores is mostly her own, examining her inner life and emotional landscape in great detail. However, her descriptions of the actual places she visits are painted vividly and with a sincere appreciation of the people and the places. And the (SPOILER ALERT) love story at the end is presented in a way that is careful not to negate her own personal growth. She is not rescued by a change of scene, or by a new man in her life - she works through her own rescue in excruciatingly small steps and a great deal of detailed inner dialogue.
If all of this sounds horrid to you, you still might find yourself liking the book because her prose and style is really quite engaging.
Anyway, I won't see the movie in the theater (although I will get it on Netflix when it's available). And I expect I'll say "oh, they really ruined that book".