I really wanted to give this book 3 1/2 stars, but Amazon doesn't let fence-sitters like me give halfies, so 4 stars it is. Also, I wanted to say first off that I'm a man (and in my twenties), so not necessarily the target audience for this book (that's not a sexist remark, but fact, as Gilbert always refers to the reader as if they are a woman). The second thing I wanted to say was that I haven't read Eat, Pray, Love and so will not be able to compare this book to her last book, which is probably a good thing, since the last one was so freakishly successful. The reason I did pick up this book was because I watched her talk on TED.com regarding artistic geniuses and thought her a very well spoken, funny, and interesting gal. I also am skeptical about marriage, and so this book seemed like it would be a good one.
It is a good one. Mostly. The parts for me that were the best were the when Gilbert let her journalistic voice shine through. Her investigation through history of what marriage means and how it has changed in Western society was very interesting and I found myself surprised at some of the historical information she uncovered, especially the fact that in early Christian society marriage was looked upon as something undesirable. It was interesting how fluid marriage has been, how easily changed and manipulated over time, considering how many conservatives on their soap boxes in the present day like to speak about how the tradition of marriage is being ruined by allowing gays to marry, etc.
Gilbert's historical, philosophical, and moral explorations of marriage are the strongest part of this book for me, especially when she explores her own family's history and relates some charming tales about her mother and grandmother. When she dives more into her own personal story (granted one that is necessary for the book) I tended to feel distanced. Mostly because the way the personal memoir part of the book is written it seemed as if I was reading someone's diary entries--and not in the fun way. She can be melodramatic and overly emotional...but she does know all these things and readily addresses them in the book. Regardless, her ruminations on her personal life and her soon-to-be husband, Felipe, left me feeling annoyed most of the time. Perhaps that has something to do with my age and gender; maybe I just can't connect to her problems and issues in a way that other readers can.
All in all, I enjoyed this book. It dealt with a subject that I'm curious about in a way that was conversational and breezy. A very easily readable book.