Book Review: THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS: A NOVEL by Elizabeth Gilbert

Publisher: Viking Adult

Published: October 1, 2013

Format: Hardback (512 pages)

ISBN: 9780670024858  

Origin: Publisher 

***Though the publisher provides the free book, I offer the opinion.***

My Look:

The first brief appearance by Alma Whittaker is to offer her father’s story.

Henry Whittaker did not come from wealth.  In fact, he was born to a poor family in 1860, and his poor lineage shaped him into a child who wanted what some others did possess. This incessant drive to obtain what was not his lot in life took him down a perilous path that could have led to his demise.  

Death did not visit this lad, as getting caught a thief should have guaranteed, but in many ways, what he endured was much worse. 

The man punishing him said many things that Henry Whittaker carried with him through the many ships, storms, illnesses, and dank places he had gone.  The most beloved was that one day Henry Whittaker would become a gentleman. 

Truth be told, he most certainly did. 

Eventually, Henry took on a Dutch wife and moved to Philadelphia where his wealth seemed to grow as did his family on his White Acre Estate.   

In Philadelphia, you’ll meet Henry’s daughter, Alma, at the beginning of life being schooled by her mother and riveted by botany like her father and his father too.  Alma was treated as a scholar by both parents and by the gentlemen who visited her home, White Acre.  

Alma’s first love is the earth and things that grow, but her next love broke her heart and the one after that one did the same.

This Whittaker daughter comes of age and cares for her father after her mother dies, but after Henry dies, Alma leaves the estate to find some answers.  Will she ever find what she seeks? 

My Take:

THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS: A NOVEL by Elizabeth Gilbert is a beautifully written tome of fiction where one main character, Alma Whittaker, strives to answer questions of life itself.  Many of those same questions are asked today and those answers still vary.  

The marvel that Elizabeth Gilbert deftly manages is that she is able to contrast the father’s and daughter’s lives in an amazing way that ends up very much the same.   Henry Whittaker found his home in Philadelphia, and Alma Whittaker finds her home in a very unexpected place.  Father and daughter sail the world, each seeking something. Some things they indeed find, but other items stay elusive. 

Alma is a strong woman living in a time where women, overall, were considered weak.  Her botany writing must be disguised with only her first initial, since the educated men learning of her femininity would dismiss her reputation.  In the eyes of these scholars of that day her womanhood would take her out of the sphere of respected and placed into the category of polite.  In other words, she wouldn’t count.  Later in life, Alma demonstrates just how much stronger she is than most of those educated men and how much smarter she is as well. Alma’s life voyage leads her where she’s meant to be.

This timeframe in history was thoroughly researched as well was the sciences. Nevertheless, I must warn the reader that some adult content does make appearances inside this art of words.    


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