Tuesday, December 7, 2010

For Optimists & Skeptics Alike

I have to admit:  I wasn't the huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert's now famous Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search For Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia that almost every other American woman my age seemed to be.  Yes, I enjoyed the mind's travel; yes, the vicarious romances.  But I always ended up setting the book down because Gilbert's tone seemed to me, well, whiny.  And this is why I avoided, for a long time, her newest book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage.  But unlike her first best-seller, Committed relays a mature voice that I found myself clinging to. 

Narratively, Committed picks up where Eat, Pray, Love leaves off.  She and Philippe are together, (somewhat) settled, and living in happy agreement that they will never marry, despite their love for one another.  But this all changes when Homeland Security discovers that Philippe has overstayed his welcome in America, and must acquire a permanent visa to reenter.  Of course, the Homeland Security Officer tells them that the only likely way for Philippe to do this is to marry his American born love.  From this beginning, Gilbert takes readers through a story that is part memoir, part history, part anthropological study, and yes, part travel narrative.  She and Philippe continue their travels, not because they want to this time, but because they must.  In the meantime, Gilbert feverishly researches marriage from the culture at large, and delves into an analysis of her own parents' marriage, all while trying to secure a life with Philippe and do the thing that both of them swore they would never do:  marry.  Highly recommended for anyone who's ever married, divorced, or contemplated either.