Book review: Eat, pray, eat: One man’s accidental search for equanimity, equilibrium and enlightenment by Michael Booth

Meet Michael Booth.  Food writer, father of two, cynic, glutton, married to Lissen yet having an increasingly torrid affair with full-bodied reds (Merlot and Burgundy for starters).  The downward spiral in the global economy sees Michael and his family reluctantly relocate from the centre of an English city to the remote countryside, a great distance from all the things he holds dear: ‘nori seaweed, fresh lemongrass, and couverture chocolate; from a decent selection of Burgundies; from fresh mangosteens and waiters who scrape your linen tablecloth between courses; from well-stocked deli counters, artisanal butchers and pistachio macarons‘.  This drastic lifestyle change in tandem with the confronting reality of middle age sends Michael careening into an existential crisis. 
 Watching her husband’s increasing unhappiness and alcohol consumption, the cluey Lissen decides that a 3 month family tour of India may help Michael overcome his malaise.  Telling Michael of her concern that their life together is no longer working she reveals her plan whereupon Michael’s immediate reaction is to argue against the poverty, disease, insects and traffic they will encounter.  But then his inner voice whispers ‘Just think of the seekh kebabs, Michael ...’  This deep longing to feast unabashedly upon the much-loved cuisine of the subcontinent is Michael’s main motivation for travelling. Yet, unbeknownst to him, Lissen has enrolled her spiritually-bankrupt husband in a month-long yoga and meditation boot camp which is what ultimately turns his life around.

This family’s Indian odyssey is in turn confronting, moving and hilarious, and I really enjoyed reading about Michael’s experiences of a country that I have never visited.  Being a card-carrying member of the Legume Brigade myself, I was (surprisingly) hoping that the story wouldn’t spiral into some hideous cliché with Michael morphing into a lentil-loving avatar saluting the sun at the drop of a hat.  I can happily report that by the end of his various adventures, Michael remains as endearingly human as he did at the tale’s outset; albeit with some tweaking (I have to admit it was a relief to see the rough edges of Michaels’ life become somewhat smoother).

If you love food, if you love travel tales, if you enjoy reading about the inner journey as much as the outer driven by a protagonist who is as sharp and honest as he is funny - then you just might like to take a bite out of this tasty treat.  I powered through this autobiography and thoroughly enjoyed it. A dream read for me.