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An interest in the human condition is the common thread that ties together Gilbert's diverse body of work, ranging from a collection of short stories (Pilgrim) to a novel discussing the outdoor lifestyle of Eustace Conway (The Last American Man). In her new work, she continues her exploration of the human psyche through a very personal journey of self-discovery in three countries: Italy, India, and Indonesia. In Italy, her first escape, she devours the food and the melodic language with equal gusto. In India, she decamps to an ashram to learn the intense discipline prayer and spiritual pilgrimage require, in the process revealing the depths to be found in reflection, meditation, and historical teachings. In Indonesia, she generates strong friendships and gains insight into homeopathic medicines, healing, and the complexities of different cultures. Throughout, she candidly shares her observations and emotions as she grows from a woman shattered, lost, and confused to one rejuvenated, confident, and in love. A probing, thoughtful title with a free and easy style, this work seamlessly blends history and travel for a very enjoyable read. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/05.]-Jo-Anne Mary Benson, Osgoode, Ont. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Gilbert (The Last American Man ) grafts the structure of romantic fiction upon the inquiries of reporting in this sprawling yet methodical travelogue of soul-searching and self-discovery. Plagued with despair after a nasty divorce, the author, in her early 30s, divides a year equally among three dissimilar countries, exploring her competing urges for earthly delights and divine transcendence. First, pleasure: savoring Italy's buffet of delights - the world's best pizza, free-flowing wine and dashing conversation partners - Gilbert consumes la dolce vita as spiritual succor. "I came to Italy pinched and thin," she writes, but soon fills out in waist and soul. Then, prayer and ascetic rigor: seeking communion with the divine at a sacred ashram in India, Gilbert emulates the ways of yogis in grueling hours of meditation, struggling to still her churning mind. Finally, a balancing act in Bali, where Gilbert tries for equipoise "betwixt and between" realms, studies with a merry medicine man and plunges into a charged love affair. Sustaining a chatty, conspiratorial tone, Gilbert fully engages readers in the year's cultural and emotional tapestry - conveying rapture with infectious brio, recalling anguish with touching candor - as she details her exotic tableau with history, anecdote and impression. (On sale Feb. 20) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.