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January 23, 2010
Over at 10MillionWords I’ve been working hard, reading all of the New York Times bestsellers that have been on the list so far this year. Just yesterday I posted a review of one that I found particularly interesting because it deals with a topic that is innately theological. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert is a book about marriage.
At the end of her bestselling book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe. Four years later she returns to tell their story. Having fallen in love with this Brazilian man, Gilbert began to build a life with him. But before long the Department of Homeland Security intervened, deporting Felipe for spending too much time in the United States despite not being a citizen. The only solution, the only way to gain his citizenship, was for the two of them to marry. Yet both of them, scarred from prior divorces, had no desire at all to marry. In fact, they had both sworn off marriage, vowing to remain together, but unfettered by that age-old institution.
“…I was not convinced that I knew very much more than ever about the realities of institutionalized companionship.” says Gilbert. “I had failed at marriage and thus I was terrified of marriage, but I’m not sure this made me an expert on marriage; this only made me an expert on failure and terror, and those particular fields are already crowded with experts. Yet destiny had intervened and was demanding marriage from me, and I’d learned enough from life’s experiences to understand that destiny’s interventions can sometimes be read as invitations for us to address and even surmount our biggest fears.” Yet the reality was that if she wanted to live her life with Felipe, she would have to marry him. “Within one year—like it or not, ready or not—I had to get married. That being the case, it seemed imperative that I focus my attention on unraveling the history of monogamous Western marriage in order to better understand my inherited assumptions, the shape of my family’s narrative, and my culturally specific catalogue of anxieties.”
This book, half travelogue and half sociology, follows her as she and Felipe travel through Asia while they wait for the U.S. government to grant him permission to enter America and get married. As she travels she researches marriage, trying to get to the bottom of what it is and why it is so fundamental to humanity. Committed is, then, a book about marriage. In its own way it is pro-marriage, I suppose, though only if we grant quite a wide understanding of what marriage is.
You can read the rest of the review at 10MillionWords
Here are a few other books I’ve reviewed recently: