Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert, Elizabeth. Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. New York: Viking, 2010.

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When it was first published, I had refused to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love for the extremely profound reason that I hated the title. But then a few people whose opinions I respect began to read it, and to my surprise, liked it. I reluctantly bought a remaindered copy and loved it.

About a year after that, I read an article (I think it was in The New York Time’s Book Review) about this next book of Gilbert’s, and again, I thought, “I’m not going to read that.” The article, a description of how she had originally bitten off way more than she could chew with this follow-up to E,P,L, which had resulted in a book she didn’t like at all, and how she had delivered that manuscript but then had asked for an extension to rewrite it, made it sound rather interesting. Nonetheless, I wasn’t going to read it. You see, the one thing that had annoyed me about E,P,L was that I didn’t think she’d given herself enough time alone really to find herself. I don’t remember the exact time frame, but it seems to me she got divorced, immediately found herself in another relationship, ended that to travel the world and find herself, only to be involved with another man within three months.

I’d wanted her to go off and have real adventures, discover she didn’t need a man to be happy. You know, for two or three years or something. Then if she’d found love, well, that would have been fine. Of course, no one ever does things the way I want them to, and in reading that article, I discovered not only had she found love “too soon,” but she’d actually gone and married the guy. Granted, there’sĀ  a reason she married him, and it isn’t the typical one. This book was all about her having to come to grips with that, she who was never going to marry again. Still. I didn’t want to read it.

But then, there it was one day on the shelf at the library. I pulled it off and started to skim through it. And there was Gilbert’s voice again, the one I’d come to enjoy so much while reading E,P,L. She’s funny. She’s self-deprecating, and she’s very, very smart. Her writing is heartfelt, without being overly dramatic or self-serving, but I wasn’t ready to commit. Then my friend Litlove wrote a very thought-provoking blog post on it, and I found myself drawn enough to return to it.

I was still a little worried that I might not like it. I was worried she would take some of the magic out of love and marriage, because one thing I’ve come to realize after fifteen years of marriage is that magic is involved. It makes absolutely no sense that human beings — a very fickle species — would choose lifelong partners, typically at a very immature age, and that this might actually work for life without some sort of magical intervention (then again, I read my fair share of fantasy, so I’m open to magic). I needn’t have worried, because I promise you. She doesn’t.

In fact, by the end of the book, she’s sort of added her own magical appeal to marriage, having looked at it from so many different angles. One thing you can say about Gilbert is that she definitely does her research (you might even say she’s a bit obsessive). Luckily, I am someone who likes that sort of thorough research (obsession), because I’m a bit thorough (obsessive) myself. I’m also a bit lazy, though, so I like it even better when someone else does all the research and synthesizes it for me, charmingly weaving it in and out of descriptions of her own experiences.

This book isn’t for everyone. Gilbert admits she’s quite progressive in her thinking, and I didn’t always agree with her. I also didn’t find it as funny as E,P,L (no laugh-out-loud moments like I had with that one), but I found it to be more substantial. She certainly made me think. That makes sense, actually. E,P,L was about searching and exploring. Committing yourself (to marriage or anything else) is always going to be more substantial than that. I would especially recommend this book to anyone who has suffered through the devastation of divorce and feels guilty about it. She is extremely comforting.