It hardly needs restating that Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray Love was, as she herself calls it, a “mega-bestseller”. Its painfully personal examination of a midlife crisis struck a chord with millions of women. In her follow up, Committed, Gilbert examines the concept of marriage in Western society, while retaining her intensely personal take on the subject.
The crux of the book is that Gilbert must marry her Brazilian sweetheart, Felipe, or he will be banned from the United States. As the survivor of a messy divorce (chronicled in Eat Pray Love) she had believed she would never marry again, and she approaches the idea with something close to terror. This book is her attempt to find some sort of peace with the notion of marriage. During their temporary exile from the US, Gilbert and Felipe travel through Southeast Asia, giving Gilbert the opportunity to consider the place of marriage in different cultures.
Gilbert retains the informal, personal tone that made Eat Pray Love so easy to read. She doesn’t attempt to write a scholarly dissertation, prefacing her discussion of many subjects with modest disclaimers, and the book is far from a complete history of its subject. Her research was somewhat eclectic – combining statistics, histories, and her own research in Southeast Asia with her own impressions and musings – and occasionally the book suffers from a lack of direction.
Like Eat Pray Love I suspect that people will enjoy the book to the extent that they like and identify with Elizabeth Gilbert. She’s far from a detached observer but she does try to be honest about her experiences and perceptions, and I remain in awe of her bravery at putting so much of her private life down on the page. You could call Committed lightweight, and it is in one sense, but for Gilbert it was clearly not an easy book to write.
The only question that remains now, is where to from here? From the end of the book it looks like Gilbert may have run out of trauma to chronicle, so perhaps that explains why she is considering a return to fiction. It certainly seems like Gilbert will live happily ever after, and that’s the satisfying end to the story that her readers expect.