Well, I’ve finally read some Elizabeth Gilbert and I am sorry for all of the assumptions that I made in the past. Very sorry. The Signature of All Things was a wonderful book and her characters became quite dear to me. I still dislike the title, Eat Pray Love, but I suppose I will have to get over it.
All we manage to achieve in The Signature of All Things is to follow a life–one whole life of an interested woman–a woman who is so interested in science and the natural world that she is able to make do with the regular old life that we’re all stuck with, she is able to find just enough light for herself.
I feel an affinity for Alma Whitaker, our protagonist, as if I were she. I am absolutely not, however. I didn’t know five languages before I was seven. I don’t know a perennial from whatever the opposite of a perennial is. I will never be a botanist, and likely never would have been one–though I do recollect being intensely interested in diagramming leaves for grade 10 science class. However you slice it, I am as far from her as a girl can get, and yet, I know her.
When I met her I understood her and I would have been as content as her silly and half-mad friend, Retta, to just stay with her and read in her study while she wrote about mosses. I understand Alma’s fear of being unlovable, her sense of responsibility and her often tragic attraction to dreamers from other worlds.
As we follow Alma in and out of the days that make a single human life, we observe the obvious melancholy and lovely nature of living and dying. But, more importantly, the author pays such love and respect to stark cold reality, that it’s as if the author is begging for the reader to love it as much as she does, as much as Alma does. The author seems to ask us to take care of each other, especially our most fragile and sensitive flowers, because we will miss them when they leave us. We will see them everywhere.
People come and go, but Alma will stay with me, thank goodness.