The one thing I regret is that I will never have time to read all the books I want to read.
--Francoise Sagan

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

I've been waiting for this book since the moment I finished Eat, Pray, Love a few years ago. I fell in love with Gilbert's voice when I read an excerpt of that memoir in O Magazine. It was so fresh and honest...but familiar, too. We had a lot in common, it seemed. I got the feeling (and I'm sure I'm not alone in this) that she and I could be close friends, sitting over lunch, commiserating...finishing each other's sentences...And since I finished Eat, Pray, Love, I've been wondering about her...hoping for a chance to catch up and reconnect. Needless to say, I scooped up Committed the day it came out.

It picks up where Eat, Pray, Love left off. In Bali, on the last leg of her introspective journey around the world, Liz fell in love with a Brazilian man named Felipe. Having both suffered devastating divorces, they pledged their faithfulness to each other privately vowing NEVER to marry. That is until the U.S. Department of Homeland Security got involved. With Felipe in handcuffs, about to be kicked out of the U.S. for good, Liz asks a Homeland Security officer, "Okay...what's the fastest way for us to secure him a better, more permanent visa?" To which the officer replies, "Honestly? The two of you need to get married."

This book chronicles the next ten months of their lives as they journey, rootless, from place to place, wading through all the red tape and attempting to make peace with marriage. It's a seamless blend of their story--their conversations, their travels, their fights--and tons of research Liz conducted on marriage.

I was captivated. Regularly I stopped reading and said to whoever was sitting near me..."Listen to this..."

Here's just one example. Gilbert writes, "Everywhere, in every single society, all across the world, all across time, whenever a conservative culture of arranged marriage is replaced by an expressive culture of people choosing their own partners based on love, divorce rates will immediately begin to skyrocket...about five minutes after people start clamoring for the right to choose their own spouses based on love, they will begin clamoring for the right to divorce those spouses once that love has died."

WHAT? That seems so counter-intuitive initially, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If you (and your clan) no longer need your husband to protect you physically, provide for you financially, expand your circle of kinship, secure you respect, or even father your children...where does that leave you? When marriage is all about your personal happiness, what happens when the going gets it inevitably will? What is there to bind you? What incentive do you have to work through the pain? Gilbert goes on to say, "Maybe divorce is the tax we collectively pay as a culture for daring to believe in love--or at least, for daring to link love to such a vital social contract as matrimony."

This is fascinating...thought-provoking, stuff. I'm walking away with a fresh perspective...with the wheels still turning...

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