The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
(Riverhead Hardcover, 2013, 512 pages)
The Signature of All Things revolves around the life of Alma Whittaker – the only child of Henry and Beatrix Whittaker. The family made a name for itself in 19th century Philadelphia thanks to Henry’s botanical skills and financial prowess. Alma followed in her father’s footsteps and immersed herself in the world of plants. Despite her intelligence Alma was made painfully aware that she was never going to be wanted or admired for her looks. When she meets Ambrose Pike, a lithographer, later in life she is surprised at how much they complement one another and while she envisions their relationship as one between siblings Ambrose surprises her further by requesting her hand.
This novel follows Alma from birth through the end of her life and we see her traveling from America to the South Pacific and Europe. I was initially pretty invested in the story because I wanted to know what would happen with Alma and her family. As things progressed, however, I found my interest tapering off. I also thought some elements in the story line seemed a bit superfluous. The audiobook narrator was well-suited for the novel. This was my first time reading any fiction by Gilbert, I was only introduced to her thanks to Eat, Pray, Love and Committed. I’m glad I got a chance to give it a listen.