by Joy Stocke
New Year’s Day in Lambertville, New Jersey at the home of Kevin Wentworth and Aba Boehm downriver from Liz Gilbert and her husband Jose Nunes’s home in Frenchtown. Friends are gathered in the dining room and kitchen eating Aba’s vegetarian chili and corn chowder in celebration of the group’s annual dunk into the mist-covered Delaware River.
Nunes arrives into this mix of artists, writers, business folk and yoga practitioners, bearing wine and apologizing for his wife who is sitting in the car finishing a phone call related to the much-anticipated follow up to her wildly successful memoir, Eat, Pray, Love.
Gilbert’s new book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, arrives in bookstores on January 5th and chronicles how she and Nunes (Brazilian-born with an Australian passport), both divorced, vowed to remain committed to one another without a marriage license. That is until Homeland Security refused Nunez an re-entry visa into the States.
Because the pair wished to settle in the States - yes, all you comedians, they chose New Jersey, the Garden State – Gilbert and Nunes married. And so begins Gilbert’s tale, a meditation on the meaning of and what it takes to create a marriage.
On New Year’s Eve after a busy week of sales, she and Nunes closed the store they set up and run together, Two Buttons Imports, for a two month hiatus and were in bed by 9:30 pm in anticipation of a very busy January and February.
When Gilbert’s book tour begins on Tuesday in New York City at the Barnes & Noble on Union Square, Nunes will already be in the Dominican Republic with his daughter who is visiting from Australia; and then on to a buying trip for Two Buttons, which will take him to Bali where Gilbert met him.
And Gilbert? She rushes into the dining room her cheeks flushed from the cold, apologizing for her tardiness, then asks, “Did anyone actually jump in the river?”
When a number of folks, including the youngest swimmer, all of eleven years old, nod in the affirmative, she shivers. “I hate being cold,” she says. “See, I have goosebumps on my arm,” and then reaches for a chocolate covered cherry.
After she graciously receives congratulations about the release of her new book, I ask whether she’s nervous. She looks up from her half-eaten cherry and says, ”You know, the expectations are so high for this book that I can’t possibly meet them. So, yes, I’m nervous to the point where I’ve had a few sleepless nights.”
Nunes eyes her protectively, “I tell her not to read a single review. I will read them first. And she is NOT to read anything on Amazon because sometimes there are crazy people who write unkind things.”
Now, I have to admit I’m having an almost out of body experience during our conversation. Can one of the best selling authors of the 21st Century really be that nervous?
Well, the answer is absolutely, yes. Even with positive early reviews, the immensely gifted Gilbert – her book, The Last American Man was a National Book Award Finalist – is waiting to hear from her readers.
She does have a wish though, one that has a good chance of coming true: “I’ve never asked people to buy my books before,” she says. “But this time I’m urging my readers to buy Committed. I really want to knock Sarah Palin from the number one nonfiction spot on the New York Times bestseller list.”