Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage
Since I am apparently one of the only women between the ages of twenty-five and seventy-five who hasn’t read Eat, Pray, Love, I was delightfully surprised by Elizabeth Gilbert's latest work, Committed.
Gilbert's engaging prose and witty, self-deprecating style are intriguing, thought provoking, moving, and hilarious. Committed picks up where the first book leaves off. Gilbert and Felipe have been living together happily on several continents, but their domestic bliss is brought to an end when U.S. Immigration detain Felipe at the airport in Dallas and then deport him. The couple is advised that the only way Felipe will be able to enter and live in the U.S. again is if they get married.
Gilbert describes their situation in confessional detail: they want to be together and Felipe needs to travel to America for his business to survive. On the other hand, both have gone through gut wrenching divorces and have sworn never to remarry. Gilbert leaves the country to be by Felipe’s side during the immigration process. As they travel together, she decides to do her own investigation of marriage to try to embrace it fully. Committed is the chronicle of that time.
The pleasure of Committed, for me, was Gilbert’s interweaving of her own story with research on the history of marriage, and the informal interviews she conducted with women from all over the world. In her writing, Gilbert shows the various, often contradictory effects of marriage on women, and she does it in a complex fashion. The chapter “Marriage and Women” begins with anecdotes about Gilbert’s time in Laos, but it could have been subtitled “Mixed Emotions” or “A Cost-Benefit Analysis.”
For example, Gilbert tells us about Joy and Ting. Ting is from a tiny Laotian village and is extremely proud of her daughter Joy, who has received an education and is a skilled weaver. However, Joy’s ability to support her family is a source of both happiness and frustration. The young men in the village are neither as educated as Joy nor are they able to provide an equally large income. Joy’s material betterment effectively ended her marriage prospects within the village.
Gilbert goes on to relate the story of her grandmother, who gave up a fashionable life and successful career to raise seven children in one room of a drafty old farmhouse during the Great Depression. Gilbert’s grandmother claims this was the happiest time of her life, but also hopes Gilbert will not give up writing books to raise a family. The contradictions inherent in how Gilbert’s grandmother feels about her life and her granddaughter’s life embody the experience of many modern women.
Gilbert captures the complicated emotions surrounding marriage perfectly, and her intelligent analysis, combined with her obvious heart and likability, make Committed a thoughtful and gratifying read. I’ve already ordered Eat, Pray, Love.