Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

I recently completed Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the ever-so-popular Eat, Pray, Love, which I reviewed here.  I was pretty certain I would like Committed and while I didn't hate it, it wasn't great.  Whereas after reading Eat, Pray, Love I was on a mission to obtain a copy for my personal library, I had no qualms about returning my borrowed copy back to the library.  Forever. 

It just seemed like Ms. Gilbert's voice was so different in this book.  It reads just like a collection of research aimed at convincing someone that marriage is a worthwhile practice generally speaking when in actuality, for Ms. Gilbert, it's a worthwhile practice if it's in the interest of keeping your fiance in the country.  I guess it felt rather disingenuous, which is a frequent complaint by Eat, Pray, Love critics.  What was missing for me was that earnestness and that insight.  The skill with which she synthesized that which she had researched into cogent and profound lessons for her life. The vast majority of the book was Ms. Gilbert simply sharing what she had gleaned from her studies of marriage across history and time.

And I was actually really surprised by some of the naivete and self-absorption [displayed] in this book regarding what you can expect from the other partner in a marriage and what marriage is supposed to do for a person.

But I will say that I really learned a great deal about the history of marriage, how it has impacted women's lives over the years, how it has evolved and the current state of marriage.  The information was presented in a very accessible way with lots of relevant personal anecdotes.  I certainly appreciate Ms. Gilbert's ambivalence about marriage and learning as much as she did to write this book, I can't say the ambivalence would be assuaged.  To the contrary, it would make you more determined to never marry.  But Ms. Gilbert really doesn't have a choice [if she wants her fiance in the country] so she ends up sucking it up.

One passage really stuck out to me as being really truthful, on page 226:

Out of respect, we must learn how to release and confine each other with the most exquisite care, but we should never--not even for a moment--pretend that we are not confined.  

As someone who married relatively young [and whose prospects (statistically speaking} for a successful marriage [so I learned from the book] are quite slim), I totally agree with this sentiment.  You won't find that many 20-somethings who are down with the inherent confinement that comes with marriage.  Marriage is intended to stabilize and hold people down.  

So Committed is not  Eat, Pray, Love.  It was a good and easy read chock full of information with a happy ending.  You can't be mad at that.  But seriously, you could read this review and get the gist of the whole book.  


Anonymous said...

I'm reading Eat, Pray, Love right now and have been considering if I should spend my time on Committed. I think I'll give it a go after reading this. :)

I love your book reviews, and your overall writing, by the way. They're so practical.

The Original Wombman said...

Oh, thanks so much Carolina! :)

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