Book review - Committed

Let me say upfront that it is not fair to judge a book (or movie) by its predecessor. Very often, our expectation from books written by authors that we have enjoyed before are not met by their subsequent books. It is as much the fault of the reader as of the author. We assume too much about a product (say a book or movie) by the prevailing hype and it is almost impossible for it to scale the mountain of our hopes to occupy the high pedestal on which we want them to be placed. “Committed” is one such book be celebrated author Elizabeth Gilbert, famous for her previous bestseller, “Eat, Pray, Love”, of which over 5 million copies have been sold and soon to be made into a movie starring none other than Julia Roberts.

Although Gilbert has written other books before, her most successful book was Eat Pray Love, which I enjoyed tremendously. Committed, in some way, is a sequel to the previous book since it deals with Gilbert’s feelings towards marrying the person she meets in Bali. She is very sure of her love for Felipe, the Brazilian-born Australian older man in her life; it is the institution of marriage itself that scares her. Both Felipe and Gilbert are ambivalent towards remarriage, after having undergone painful divorces. Therefore what Gilbert offers in 285 pages is another memoir (with extra socio-historical bonus sections!), her systematic study of marriage in all its forms and its evolution in Western society over the ages. With eight long chapters with titles such as Marriage and Surprises, Marriage and Infatuation, Marriage and Autonomy, she describes and debates the role of marriage in society, its effect on women, in particular and put these subjects in the context of her own personal situation. Her situation, I must mention, is a deadline imposed by the Department of Homeland Security for the two of them to tie the knot in order to bring Felipe into the country, legally and forever.

Gilbert manages to keep her sense of humor as in the previous book but never gets to being really funny. The self-deprecation which lightened the tone of the serious issues she tackled previously is missing from this heavy and serious tome. It is just a lot of self-centered, mostly imaginary angst that the readers are subjected to. It was very hard for me to feel any degree of empathy for the author as she struggles to measure her “marriage-readiness’ or worthiness of marriage itself. At some point, I fast-forwarded to the last chapter to see how the book ended, which was quite predictable. Whether you take the step of marriage with a great deal of thought (and a book to prove it) or wander into the institution unawares, it is a question of individual choice. Perhaps Gilbert herself caught the gist of this when she writes in the context of motherhood, after interviewing several mothers, “… there wasn’t a pattern. There was just a whole bunch of smart women trying to work things out on their own terms, trying to navigate somehow by their own instincts.”

If you want to study the subject of marriage, either as someone who is contemplating marriage in the near future or just curious about it, perhaps you might consider going through this contemporary thesis on an old institution.