Elizabeth Gilbert published Pilgrims, her beautiful, bristly short story collection, in 1997, nine years before Eat, Pray, Love, her exuberant, raw meditation on divorce, depression, and healing, made her suddenly famous. Pilgrims peels back convention to reveal, with empathy and droll language, the primitive nuttiness and courage that lends ordinary people heart.
By definition, modern pilgrims are wanderers, struggling through daily grinds to find redemption or the true purpose of life. Each of the tart, spiny characters inhabiting Gilbert’s twelve stories is searching for something—her pilgrims hang out on ranches and in bars, in remote corners of Wyoming and Montana, and vegetable markets in the Bronx. There is sturdy Martha Knox, a ranch cook, with a dark, brown braid “thick as a girl’s arm”, and Rose, an elderly widow who drives a kindergarten school bus, crammed one morning with ghosts, all adoring suitors from her unchaste past. None of Gilbert’s characters is immediately charming, but all compel with their routine habits and dustbowl looks.
Coleen Marlo, narrator of Pilgrims, has a silk slip of a voice that ably roams from the coarse drawl of a rodeo cowboy to the hollow whine of Babette, a bawdy Manhattan nightclub singer. Under Marlo’s finespun, intelligent narration, listeners will find an intuitive collaborator to Gilbert’s good flow. Download and start listening now!