I’ve just finished listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s followup book to Eat, Pray, Love. Yes, listening. I’ve developed a real thing for audio books, especially since I discovered Audible + iPod. I have to say I give this one a thumbs up, the risky “read by the author” part and all.
I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, but I wasn’t wholeheartedly enthusiastic about it. It bothered me that the Gilbert of EPL seemed lacking in maturity and self-awareness, particularly as she spent so much time and money in a way most people aren’t able to spend doing nothing more than looking for herself. I expected more from her because of that, but she didn’t deliver. She was just as self-centered and lacking in genuinely critical self-awareness as people who aren’t able to devote their entire attention to healing themselves. Really, in that book I thought she needed more problems and responsibilities, more of the types of demands on her time that the average person has to deal with so that her own perfectly ordinary human meltdown wouldn’t have the luxury of taking on such epic proportions.
But that was Eat, Pray, Love. That was then. Committed is another book altogether. Committed I like a great deal. It’s the more grownup story. It’s well-thought out, researched, and insightful. She continues the story of her own love and the emotional and legal challenges she faces when she is essentially forced to marry her Brazilian-born man if she wants him to stay in the U.S. Woven through her own narrative, though, are the stories of marriages she’s witnessed, marriage traditions throughout the world and throughout history that she’s researched, and a series of psychological readings on the whats and whys of marriages falling apart.
She embarks on her study of marriage mainly to allay her own fears of marrying a second time after having already experienced a devastating divorce. Much of what she says should be common sense–that relationships break because people go into them as virtual strangers expecting the other person be everything, to fulfill them in every way. Just because we ought to know this doesn’t mean we always do, though, nor does it mean even the smartest of people are immune to plunging blindly into another and another infatuation all doomed to the same bad end as the last relationship.
It’s good. It’s smart. It’s definitely more mature than Eat, Pray, Love. Plus, you get to learn interesting tidbits along the way like the fact that many of the characteristics of what we now call a traditional wedding in this country didn’t actually become popular until the late 19th century when young American brides thought it fashionable to get married in the style of Queen Victoria.
I still find it a little difficult to relate to Gilbert’s personal narrative in that she seems unaware of the fact that she lives a far more privileged life than almost everyone else in even her own country. Yes, she acknowledges the extreme poverty she witnesses in her travels, but what she doesn’t acknowledge is that even while she calls herself frugal in this book, she doesn’t think like any frugal person I ever met. When her lover is deported she sets out to travel the world with him, albeit to the cheaper parts of the world, rather than be separated from him. I don’t know a single person who would have had that option, nor do I know anyone who would have done it even if they could afford it. Almost anyone would have considered the frugal option to be to go somewhere–like Australia–where they could both find work while they waited out the time it took to process through getting back into the States.
She talks about choosing to go to places where traveling is cheap, but she never once talks about the idea of finding work for either her or her partner during this time. This was puzzling to me since in my world normal people when displaced from their homes look for work before they do anything else.
Of course, Gilbert’s work is to write, but she says that during this time she was not yet reaping the benefits of the huge success of Eat, Pray, Love, and though she was researching the next book, she was not yet writing it.
All that is neither here nor there. It’s just my own quirkiness that has me believing I’d like the book better if the author/narrator had a more working class or even middle class mentality. That said, her ideas about relationships are worth reading, and I think this book will hit home with the large following Gilbert won over with Eat, Pray, Love.