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Book Club: The Signature of All Things: A Novel, by Elizabeth Gilbert

By Margaret Manning January 10, 2014 Mindset

After taking a 13 year break from writing novels, and following the amazing international success of her memoir “Eat Pray Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert has returned to fiction with “The Signature of  All Things: A Novel.”

The book is set in the 18th and 19th centuries and tells the rags to riches story of the Whittaker family led by the creative and resourceful Henry Whittaker. After conquering extreme poverty and facing personal challenges, he becomes the richest man in Philadelphia. His strong willed and adventurous daughter Alma eventually inherits all of her father’s money and, living in extreme wealth, indulges her passion for the natural world. She hides her herself away from the world and becomes a successful botanist.

Not searching for love, she remains a dedicated scientist but falls in love with her exact opposite, a man named Ambrose Pike. He is an artist with a passion for the spiritual and the magical aspects of life. What brings them together is a desire to understand the world and explore the unknown. The book is about Alma’s quest to understand science, herself and her complicated relationship with Ambrose. It is also a bit of a travelogue as she explores the world from London to Peru, Philadelphia to Tahiti and Amsterdam!

I chose this book because it shows the incredible writing talent of Elizabeth Gilbert. In her TED talk on creativity, she says that she will always be only associated with the “freakish success” of Eat, Pray, Love. I wanted to show that her success was based on her talent.

I also believe that many women in the Sixty and Me community will relate to Alma’s character, including her inner contradictions and fears about commitment and love. The story places her in an amazing time in human history, when science, religion, and business were changing rapidly – much like today. As women over 60, we are masters of reinvention. I hope that this book helps us to recognize our own struggle to find our personal identity and purpose in a time of change.

You can get the book on Amazon.

To kick things off, here are a few questions. Please add your thoughts in the comments:

When it comes to relationships, do you think that opposites attract? More importantly, do opposites make good partners?

Did you find the author’s attempt to tell the story of science and spirituality interesting?

Why do you think the author chose this title?

Were there any particular moments that stood out to you? Why?

Did any of the characters remind you of yourself or someone you know? How?

I hope that you enjoy this book! Please share your thoughts below.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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