Being a fan of an author often leads me, like any reader, to get my hands on any an all writings by that person if I find I am a fan of the writing, the voice, the characters, story development, etc. I must admit, there are several authors out there who don’t make that list…those books are recycled, sent on to another life, and hopefully reach someone who will get more from the book than I did. However, one author whose voice is particularly appealing is Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve read Committed; Eat, Pray, Love; and just recently finished The Signature of All Things. As usual, I found the book worthy of Not being recycled.
The story begins and ends with a woman interested in botany and science but set, ironically, in the early to late 1800’s. In a society where men are the dominant species, especially in the scientific field, it was fascinating to watch Alma’s mind begin its formative development, watch her become lost in the strict educational regiment where she flourished, see her begin her own studies, publish for scientific journals, and through loss and heartbreak still become more magnificent in the end of her life. She is a woman to behold, to be reckoned with, and a true force in her world. I was moved by her strength, her ability to endure, her intelligence. She gave me a new found respect for the women of her day, and made me appreciate the women who have come before me. Her story is one to be admired and respected.
Other supporting characters were equally well developed, specific personality traits, ways of speaking to and addressing our Ms. Alma, touching on the relationships between various family members. There is the father daughter bond, the need for that father figure’s attention; mother daughter relationships; sister/sibling attentions and rivalries; undisclosed family secrets and histories; touching on the marital relationships and duties and obstacles of various marriages; overcoming and succumbing to challenges. All were very real, very familiar, and expressed with each and every emotion one might encounter when dealing with each character.
Like Ms. Gilbert’s other books, I found her character to be well developed, the story to be crafted so that it flowed and transitioned smoothly, and details and twists delicately crafted to perfection. Her voice in this story is that of a friend, telling a story over a glass of wine on a comfy sofa, in the fading light of day…I can envision the story teller taking a break, getting up to stretch before moving into the next chapter, refilling our glasses before continuing, then beginning again.
I took time to thank Ms. Gilbert personally on her Facebook page for sharing her character Alma with the world as she is an attribute to women who have come before us all. Am I giving this book a thumbs up? Absolutely! It is indeed a literary dessert!