Review: ‘Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage’ by Elizabeth Gilbert

committed_book coverThere were three things that appealed to me about “Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

  1. I’ve read “Eat, Pray, Love” a few times and I really love Gilbert’s writing.
  2. I want to know what happened between her and Felipe ever since I put down “Eat, Pray, Love” (duh).
  3. I, too, am very skeptical about marriage and what it is. Why not read one of my favorite author’s write about it? Logic.

I’m not going to make this into a post on what I don’t understand about the institute of marriage, etc., because that’s a whole other can of worms I don’t really want to get into. My brain always starts to shut down when I start thinking about it or when I see another Facebook friend get engaged.

So it makes sense that I read a whole BOOK about someone trying to come to terms with marriage, right? Right. One of my rules has always been “when in doubt, go to the library,” much like one of my favorite heroines, Hermione.

And Gilbert echoed similar thoughts at the beginning of the book: “It had always been my experience in the past, anyhow, that the more I learned about something, the less it frightened me” (Loc 447, Chapter One).

Much of the book is Gilbert rehashing all of the information and studies and books and people’s stories that she learned about marriage as she traveled around southeast Asia with Felipe.

I’ll catch you up real quick: Liz and Felipe, both divorcees, vowed they wouldn’t marry but that they’d be together. A couple years into their relationship (and after the end of “Eat, Pray, Love”), Felipe decided to sell his house in Bali and move in with Liz, who was living in Philadelphia. The problem was that visas only last 90 days, so he’d have to leave the U.S. for a couple weeks and return to get a new visa. When they were flying into Dallas/Fort Worth, Homeland Security wouldn’t let him into the U.S. The only way for Felipe to be able to stay in the U.S. with a permanent visa would be for him to marry Liz.

*pause for dramatic effect*

So they decided to do what they dreaded most: get married. But there were a lot of hoops to go with in order for that to happen. In the year or so between Felipe getting kicked out and the pair marrying, they traveled across southeast Asia and Liz studiously researched marriage.

Throughout the book, Gilbert weaves the research in with narratives of her travels. She writes about how she met with Hmong women, witnessed a Buddhist monk reading a love letter in a Laos Internet café and stories of her own grandmother and mother.

All of the research she presented I found very interesting. One section in particular was about the two worldviews the Western world has: Greek and Hebrew. She writes that we inherited our ideas about the sanctity of the individual from the Greeks and our sense of justice from Hebrew philosophy. (Note: When Gilbert refers to “Hebrew,” she is referencing the ancient worldview about tribalism, faith, obedience and respect, not Judaism tenets.)

In the Western world, we try to reconcile these two irreconcilable views.

On one hand (the Hebrew hand), we overwhelmingly believe as a nation that marriage should be a lifetime vow, never broken. On the other, Greek, hand, we equally believe that an individual should always have the right to get divorced, for his or her own personal reasons. —Chapter Seven

One other important point I gleaned from this book full of marriage facts is that the institution of marriage is so malleable — Gilbert compares it to Silly Putty. This was something I already had a sense of but reading all of the history she researched, it became more clear.

Gilbert put together an incredibly condensed, simple resource about marriage combined with her own experiences. Her writing voice shines through and like with “Eat, Pray, Love,” you get the sense of what her state of mind was when all of this was happening.

Do I have a change of heart about marriage after reading “Committed”? Nope. Not really. But maybe I’ll try to hash out my thoughts at a later date.

It is not we as individuals, then, who must bend uncomfortably around the institution of marriage; rather, it is the institution of marriage that has to bend uncomfortably around us.

—Chapter Seven

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