Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

I was fully prepared to not like this book. Not for necessarily rational reasons - I've never read Eat, Love, Pray, and have refrained from doing so both because of the immense hype around the book and the message that in order to find yourself, you had to be someone who already had an immense amount of privilege. I'm not saying that's what Eat, Pray, Love is like, as I'm talking from no knowledge whatsoever. But the publicity around the book just stank of that point of view.

So I was skeptical when I sat down with Committed, unsure I wanted to read her point of view on marriage, and why she was so skeptical of it, etc., etc. And the truth is that while I didn't love this book, I did enjoy it, and she grew on me. Her views on marriage going into writing the book are completely alien, but I liked the way she grappled with them.

So, about a book about marriage, I feel like I should at least briefly state something about myself, to give you context. I've been married for almost ten years. We lived together for six years before that, so we certainly weren't hurrying into anything! In fact, when people have asked me what was unexpected about getting married, my general answer was that I was surprised at how little getting married changed anything.

Which isn't to say that I had any hesitancy in standing up and marrying my husband. I've always thought that the act of making your commitment public in front of your community is a very powerful act. I've also always thought that it was a mistake to think that that ceremony would create commitment if it wasn't there already.

And, you know, so far so good! As always, he's my best friend, and we've been through some heavy shit the last few years, from the death of my father to the crappy economy and the effect it's had on jobs in our area (consistently the second highest urban unemployment rate in Canada! Hurray?) He's my rock, and I try to be his. Our hobbies heavily overlap. Not trying to brag here, but I think I have a pretty damned good marriage.

So I come into this book with a drastically different opinion and experience from Elizabeth Gilbert, who went through what seems like a very painful divorce, and got married too young, without thinking it through. So her struggles with the institution were somewhat foreign. But I'm fascinated by marriage, and by the views other people have of that simple little ceremony. And her history was fairly solid - simplified for the audience she's addressing, but her research covers most of the books I would have wanted someone to cover.

And the personal story is interesting, and by the end, affecting. I wanted her to succeed. So while this wasn't my favourite book, it ended up finding a spot with me much more than I had expected. Not enough to go make me seek out Eat, Pray, Love. But enough to make me open to reading future works - I think she just had a novel or book of short stories come out.

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