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Home » Books & writing

Book Review: Elizabeth Gilbert's COMMITTED

Submitted by on January 5, 2010 – 12:24 am 9 Comments

After reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love three years ago, I became almost evangelistic about it, discussing it nonstop with others, buying copies for friends, etc. Wish I could do the same for her follow-up, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage (out today). Because I think Gilbert is such an engaging writer, it pains me to say I didn’t love this book. **Mild spoilers ahead if you haven’t read EPL.**

The events here follow what happened at the end of EPL, specifically her meeting her Brazilian lover Felipe in Bali and their pledging love to each other with promises to never get married. (Both are shell-shocked survivors of divorce.)

At the beginning of Committed, they’ve been living together in Philadelphia when the Department of Homeland Security throws a monkey wrench into their non-wedded bliss by denying Felipe re-entry into the U.S. after an overseas trip. A sympathetic officer says the fastest way for Felipe to get a permanent visa is for the couple to marry.

Filled with dread, they nevertheless apply for the necessary papers then spend almost a year traveling through Southeast Asia (where the dollar stretches farther) while awaiting approval. Gilbert also uses the time to obsessively research the history of marriage and its different customs throughout the world in order to better understand the institution and hopefully reduce her fear of it.

Gilbert’s conversational style is winning; she’s smart, funny and not afraid to reveal her deepest fears and flaws. She still comes across as someone I’d love to have lunch with. But while EPL is charming because it’s her personal story, the author spends much of Committed delving into the origins of marriage, drumming up everyone from Greek philosophers to early Christian leaders to feminists, causing entire chapters to read textbook-y. The conclusion she finally reaches about marriage is interesting, a perspective I hadn’t previously considered, but I wish the focus stayed more on her relationship with Felipe.

Nerd verdict: Not totally Committed to this

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  • Jen Forbus says:

    Elizabeth Gilbert came to our CAMEX Book and Author Breakfast last year. She IS very charming, but the whole premise of this book (marriage) would make me depressed, I think.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      What is CAMEX? At first, I thought it was lip balm but realized that’s Carmex. How cool you got to see her in person. I’ve always enjoyed watching her TV interviews.

      • Jen Forbus says:

        I work for the National Association of College Stores (NACS) and our yearly trade show is called CAMEX (Campus Market Expo). One of the events each year is the Book and Author Breakfast. It’s very nice! Last year we were in Anaheim. This year it will be Orlando.

  • le0pard13 says:

    As I read the review (and I’ve not read anything by this author), I thought of two quotes from Bill Cosby. The first, paraphrasing, is from a routine I heard long, long ago; the second one is fairly well known (at least among some of the wedlock’d):

    Men really don’t understand marriage like women do. Even after many years of it, when they finally think they understand marriage… they die.

    The heart of marriage is memories; and if the two of you happen to have the same ones and can savor your reruns, then your marriage is a gift from the gods.

    Thanks, PCN.

  • I’ve only just started reading EPL, so the turmoil of what she felt through the split with her first husband and divorce is raw and fresh in my mind. When I saw what her next book is about, it really surprised me and made me more curious to see how EPL unfolds!

  • julievbb says:

    I listened to both books on audio, read by the Author. So my retention is more slippery than had I held the book open in my lap. My impression is of a curious soul (my personal fave quality in people), who is by turns fun & annoyingly whiney. (Especially considering her many opportunities & privileges!) She seems to catch herself & laugh it off most times, thankfully. Having grown up in a very large family, “No whining!” is a default p.o.v. for me.
    That being said, I love MG’s ability to gather friends wherever she lands, like wildflowers in a bouquet on her open windowsill. A simple kindness; artful. I actually liked her scholarly approach of the subject of marriage. I’ll buy the book for reference, if she’s annotated/cited her declarations. (I always hope the research is clean, if I’m going to incorporate it in my thinking; ie: an Historical novel.) I like that her Sister is an Historian, and that she uses her as a resource- resonates w me: smart sibs!
    Her own love-story in the foreground makes a nice table setting for the dinner-party of the larger story of Marriage, et al.

    p.s. Fave quote (from Hub): “I was born broke… not poor.” (Yes!)

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