How on earth did this book come to be published?? And how is it getting more than 2 stars?? It's the whiniest, most self-indulgent, self-absorbed research paper/rant I have ever read. Her refrain, as other reviewers have noted, is indeed, "What's in it for me? What about me? How does that help me?" It gets old. Fast. I read the entire book because I stubbornly held onto some idea that I might get to the end and the whole thing would be worth it somehow. That moment never came. I should have put it down after the first chapter. I did get a little misty while reading the last chapter, but I think that had mainly to do with the niece and nephew...
She seems to have forgotten everything she supposedly learned and all her zen-like qualities that she supposedly gained from her EPL phase. She is right back where she started in EPL: paranoid, entitled, needy, sulky, with way too high an estimation of her own intelligence, beliefs, sense of humor, and opinions. I liked EPL, I liked her narrative voice (even though I don't agree with a lot of what she said), and I liked the optimistic and perseverant quality of herself in that book (or at least how she portrayed herself). That said, the same Liz Gilbert did not write both books. Her voice in Committed is a shrew's shrill, harping, whiny, bitter, unrelentingly pessimistic screech. At first, I tried to discover which voice is really hers, but after slogging through this entire book, which felt as weighty and uninspired as an encyclopedia, I don't think I care anymore. All I know is that I will be hard pressed to ever pick up another of her books. And I'm writing this review to warn readers to stay away from this book. There are so many worthier uses of your time.
This woman loves to research everything, it seems. Instead of researching, why doesn't she just get in touch with herself? Or don't. But stop obsessing and second-guessing yourself for months on end. Does it really matter what other people think? In America today, a man and a woman can pretty much craft whatever kind of marriage they both want. If the man wants to do all the cooking and let his wife sit in an easy chair and drink wine, then more power to them. If they want to write up a pre-nup, no one's going to stop them. Was this really a revelation to the author? Seems pretty obvious to me. Does it really matter what all her girlfriends here in America and women from rural Laos think about marriage, children, feminist issues, and so on? Why do all these things matter? Why can't she just quietly examine her own love for Felipe and his love for her and come to a decision, instead of going on and on and on about how much marriage exacts from women, how much men benefit from marriage, how many women in her family gave up their dreams for marriage? I think she likes making things a lot harder than they really need to be. Or maybe she just needs drama in her life. That would explain a lot.
In addition to her obsession with all things marriage, she also throws in a good deal of her opinions about social conservatives. Could she hate conservatives more? I doubt it. She blames them personally for just about everything she can. She blames them for her family's women giving up their dreams and "scraping the walls of their souls" in sacrifice for their husbands and families; never mind that her mom and sis are happy in their marriages. She blames conservatives for conditions throughout the decades and centuries which she will never even have to experience. I suppose she's complaining on behalf of her ancestors. Even though she blames conservatives for encouraging mothers to stay at home with their children, she admits that when her own mother quit her job and stayed at home to raise the author and her sister, the girls loved it. She is quick to follow up this admission with the fervent desire that her mom had been able to have both a fulfilling career and a happy, nurtured family. She says everyone's lives got better when her mom quit her job, except her mom's life. (It is ironic that near the end of the book, the author discovers a theory that she claims to be her salvation, served up by none other than Ferdinand Mount, a conservative Brit.)
Which brings me to the idea of "having it all." This author has bought into the feminist idea that a woman can have everything she wants, and that's a shame. She doesn't seem to know that for every thing we choose, there is something else that we have just given up. There is no possible way to have everything we want. If we choose Option A, then that means we won't have enough time/energy/money for Option B. She seems to take this law as a personal insult/challenge. Just as a person cannot be in two places at the same time, there is no way that a person can have every single thing she wants. Priorities are made, decisions are made, and hopefully we made the best choice. This isn't something the author is willing to do.
And the fact that she keeps blaming Homeland Security for her impending marriage and insists on calling the refusal to let Felipe into the country "deportation" makes this author come across as a spoiled teenager. For being as smart and well traveled as she is, it's impossible to believe that she had no idea that Felipe's coming into the country for 90 days at a time several times per year would be sure, eventually, to be scrutinized and put to a halt. And enough whining about how hard it is to get all the various documents in order. Many others have done this same thing; somehow they figured it out.
This author is best when she tells stories and anecdotes. Those gleaming moments came too few and far between and lasted all too briefly in this book. I got so excited when she would start talking about how Felipe mixes up his idioms and words, like "Nobody sings until the fat lady sings," or when he says "lulubells" and means "lullabies." Also, when she told stories about people, dogs, chickens, and frogs she met in her travels. Or describing her conversations with her niece about what constitutes a proper marriage or describing her niece's impromptu wedding ceremony in the kitchen. But those storytelling segments never lasted very long, and then she would be back at the horse's side, beating and beating the poor thing, even though he was long dead. She goes on for pages and pages, draws a conclusion... and then says, "BUT," at which point the reader knows he's in trouble. She's going to take the whole issue apart again and reassemble it from a different angle. It's so obvious from her writing that this lady is up to her eyeballs in neuroses. I think she undid every positive thing that happened to her in ELP. She's regressed and her readers are only some of the people who are suffering from this development.
Poor Felipe. You know she's going to make his life miserable. Run, man, run! And reader, spare yourself, too! Skip this one.