Jennifer Egan of The New York Times described Gilbert’s prose as “fueled by a mix of intelligence, wit and colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible”, but said that the book “drags” in the middle. She was more interested in “the awkward, unresolved stuff she must have chosen to leave out,” noting that Gilbert omits the “confusion and unfinished business of real life,” and that “we know how the story ends pretty much from the beginning.
Maureen Callahan of the New York Post heavily criticized the book, calling it “narcissistic New Age reading,” and “the worst in Western fetishization of Eastern thought and culture, assured in its answers to existential dilemmas that have confounded intellects greater than hers.” In addition, she was critical of Oprah’s focus on the book, as well as Oprah’s fans who enjoy the book, asking why her fans are “indulging in this silliness,” and why they aren’t “clamoring for more weight when it comes to Oprah’s female authors.
Katie Roiphe of Slate agreed with Egan about the strength of Gilbert’s writing. However, she described the journey as too fake: “too willed, too self-conscious”. She stated that despite the apparent artificiality of the journey, her “affection for Eat, Pray, Love is … furtive”, and that “it is a transcendently great beach book. The Washington Post‘s Grace Lichtenstein stated that “The only thing wrong with this readable, funny memoir of a magazine writer’s yearlong travels across the world in search of pleasure and balance is that it seems so much like a Jennifer Aniston movie.
Lev Grossman of TIME, however, praised the spiritual aspect of the book, stating that “To read about her struggles with a 182-verse Sanskrit chant, or her (successful) attempt to meditate while being feasted on by mosquitoes, is to come about as close as you can to enlightenment-by-proxy.” He did, however, agree with Roiphe that her writing occasionally seems to be “trying too hard to be liked; one feels the belabored mechanism of her jokes.
Lori Leibovich of Salon.com agreed with several other reviewers about the strength of Gilbert’s story telling. She agreed with Egan as well that Gilbert seems to have an unlimited amount of luck, saying “her good fortune seems limitless”, and asking “Is it possible for one person to be this lucky?
Entertainment Weekly‘s Jessica Shaw said that “Despite a few cringe-worthy turns … Gilbert’s journey is well worth taking.Don Lattin of the San Francisco Chronicle agreed with Egan that the story was weakest while she was in India, and questioned the complete veracity of the book.Barbara Fisher of The Boston Globe also praised Gilbert’s writing, stating that “she describes with intense visual, palpable detail. She is the epic poet of ecstasy.”
In early 2010, the feminist magazine Bitch published a critical review and social commentary called “Eat, Pray, Spend”. Authors Joshunda Sanders and Diana Barnes-Brown wrote that “Eat, Pray, Love is not the first book of its kind, but it is a perfect example of the genre of priv-lit: literature or media whose expressed goal is one of spiritual, existential, or philosophical enlightenment contingent upon women’s hard work, commitment, and patience, but whose actual barriers to entry are primarily financial.” The genre, they argued, positions women as inherently and deeply flawed, and offers “no real solutions for the astronomically high tariffs—both financial and social—that exclude all but the most fortunate among us from participating.