Book review: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Topics of marriage, expectations and surprises explored

Over the summer, I read the book “Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert who also wrote “Eat, Pray, Love”—a popular novel that became so popular that it got turned into a movie in 2010.

Gilbert burns with a fervent desire for freedom and her eight chapters of “Committed” fall into different topics related to marriage: “Marriage and Surprises,” “Marriage and Expectation,” “Marriage and History”—to name only a few.

Summer feels like a dream that has faded away by now, but I needed time to think about what I wanted to say because the book struck me as so powerful. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say so I needed time to think about it and what I want to say has to do with dreams. Because like summer, they, too, can fade and we might wonder where they went if we don’t pay attention.

We all have dreams. In “Committed,” Gilbert examines how difficult it can be, especially a woman, to achieve them for the expectations that burden her. Gilbert expands on some of the stories when she walks her readers through the different lives women have in the cultures and traditions in the countries she visited.

One of Gilbert’s highlights is about society and its expectations to keep it strong which includes women raising families while the men worked. She discusses her observations of a young couple, 21 and 19, she had befriended in southeast Asia. The couple lived a simple lifestyle and the man worked hard for both of them especially since they were expecting a baby.

In the same village that they lived in, more young women were becoming aware of the opportunities that lay ahead of them. Instead of marrying young and keeping the population going, the women had discovered the benefits education provided and so many were starting to pursue them and sometimes leaving the village for good. That began to concern the older people and leaders of what they considered to be “Western world problems.” One woman even asked Gilbert if she knew a rich educated man from America who would want to marry her daughter.

In “Part Five: Marriage and Women,” Gilbert also dives into personal stories of her mother and grandmother, comparing and contrasting the two. Her grandmother traveled and saved her own money before she married, including buying a wine-colored coat decked out with fur. Later to ensure she met all of her seven children’s needs, she cut up her coat so she could sew clothes for them during The Depression. Gilbert’s mom also worked at Planned Parenthood as a nurse but when Gilbert and her sister became sick, she gave up her career. Why? Because their father had no willingness to assist their mother with their care and lacked the insight of how to care for them like she did.

Once Gilbert believed she had found freedom in her new life with her lover Felipe, her grandmother asked her if she would “get married and have children and stop writing books.”

That felt like a dagger to Gilbert’s heart, which is how I would take it, too. Nobody can mess around with the matters of the heart and when you write from the heart, it is an insult. But when someone like me can see it from the grandmother’s point of view, she is concerned about her granddaughter.

But here’s one problem: what one person’s happiness is does not equal the same amount for another. Here’s another problem: society has its ideas of what will make a woman happy and it includes family and it means putting them first before yourself to the point that you lose yourself. That often becomes a detriment for marriage since women may feel stifled because of all their giving and not having something they do that they can take pride in.

I recommend this book for any woman, no matter who they are, what their background is, and where they wish to go in life. Even though I have thought about the topics Gilbert relayed through her stories, I learned something new: I’m not alone in my struggles in my future decisions, especially when it comes to relationships and what I view as my own path.

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