KNOWN FOR HER POIGNANT MEMOIR EAT PRAY LOVE,
which documented her own three-country spiritual odyssey,
Elizabeth Gilbert continues to share the questions of her spiritual
journey in her anticipated new novel, The Signature of All Things.
In The Signature, Gilbert’s heroine Alma, whose life story spans
the 18th and 19th centuries, goes on a quest of her own, echoing
the theme of finding meaning that Gilbert asked in her own now-famous story.
When I read The Signature of All Things, I felt like I was being
pulled through the story. Now that it is out in the world, how
has the process been of hearing from readers?
It has been gratifying. This book is a bit different than what
readers of Eat Pray Love might have expected from me since that
is the book that I am well known for. I was watching -- not so
much how it was being received, but if I was offering it in the right
way. You are not in charge of how people receive things; you are
only in charge of how you offer it to them.
I am glad that you pointed out that you were being pulled
through the story because, as a writer, I feel a duty to delight. To
me, to delight means to make somebody cry, have an emotional
catharsis, take them on a journey, or to allow them to have a
fully human experience. I am always aware of the reader and I
would never deliberately publish something that was off-putting.
My heroes are people like Charles Dickens who had the ability
to take the reader by the hand at the first moment of the
story and say, “You don't have to worry, I am taking you on
this adventure. I know exactly where we are going and we are
going to have a remarkable time.” That wonderful sense of being
taken somewhere is what I wanted to offer to readers. That is
something I myself love as a reader.
In the same way that Eat Pray Love takes people through a
cathartic emotional journey, so does your new novel. Whether
a piece of writing is fiction or nonfiction, that core emotional
story is powerful.
I hope so, and I know that is the story that I will be telling
my whole life in different ways. I don't think there is a more
interesting story than somebody's journey through space and time
in this life—particularly a woman's journey.
The questions I ask in this novel are the same questions I have
been asking all along: How do we find ourselves? How do we
find our purpose? How do we overcome our obstacles whether
they be internal or external? How do we become resilient in the
face of disappointment? How do we find ourselves in the world?
In a way, people have pointed out the differences between this
book and Eat Pray Love, but I think, as you say, it is kind of the
same story. >
WITH EAT PRAY LOVE AUTHOR
BY FELICIA TOMASKO