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BOOKLIGHT: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

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I just read - and loved - Elizabeth Gilbert's wonderful, mega-bestselling

memoir, "Eat, Pray, Love." It's a tale of surviving divorce and a subsequent search for a balance between earthly pleasure and divine transcendence. I was a little behind the times. Three years ago, everyone (even Oprah) was buzzing about it.

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But how lovely for me that the moment I finished reading "Eat, Pray, Love," I could immediately pick up Gilbert's brand-new book, "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage." I came away convinced that both books - and maybe especially "Committed" - should be required reading for any woman who's planning to tie the knot. And for anyone who already has.

Where "Eat, Pray, Love" left off, Gilbert had just fallen in love with a Brazilian man, Felipe. "Committed" picks up with the couple still happy, settled in Philadelphia and having pledged to love each other always -

but never, ever to marry. (They're both survivors of divorce.) But when they travel out of the country, Felipe is stopped at a U.S. border upon returning and told he cannot ever enter the U.S. again unless he and Liz

get married.

Sentenced to matrimony, but with a long time to wait for the requisite background checks and paperwork, an anxious Gilbert decides to try to come to peace with the institution of marriage. As she and Felipe travel in Asia, she begins asking people to talk to her about their thoughts and

experiences. Their responses give her something against which to measure her own Western expectations. She also dives into the history of marriage, the science of attraction and so on, attacking the subject from every

angle.

Gilbert is a master at weaving her experiences - as she and Felipe travel and wait and worry - with her research findings. Still, those who enjoyed the experiencebased "Eat, Pray, Love" may be surprised to find that "Committed" reads at times more like a scholarly work than a memoir. But this makes sense, since the book was written about a time in Gilbert's life that consisted mostly of waiting, and it works for a variety of reasons, as the author shares her insights on the historical situations that have shaped marriage in our culture and on the present day ramifications of everything from fidelity to compatibility to divorce.

She also shares personal and family stories that have shaped her own ideas about marriage. One of my favorite sections is Gilbert's examination of her parents' long marriage, on the battles they've waged, concessions each has made and the compromises that continue to be necessary for them to get through day after day together.

Gilbert's well-rounded, frank, funny and personal approach makes this book a joy to read. She ultimately suggests some necessary ingredients for a lasting marriage, and she advocates for not making such a commitment without clear eyes. She also discusses how - biologically speaking - love

truly does cloud one's vision. But in the hands of Elizabeth Gilbert, even this paradox finally gives way to hope - that the risk of committed love, with hard work and a lot of compromise, can reap the greatest rewards.

Ellen Baker is the author of Keeping the House: A Novel, now available in paperback. She lives in Northeastern Minnesota, where she is working on her second novel. Visit her website at www.ellenbakernovels.com.

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