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on 18 October 2006
This book was an absolute delight to read. Elizabeth Gilbert, in my opinion, writes in a similar style to Annie Proulx, whose books I also think are wonderful. The characters are so believable, and I was completely entranced by the stories, feeling a range of emotions, from sadness, to disgust, to delight, to happiness. Most of the stories were so touching. I really hope other people will enjoy this book.
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on 15 April 2012
The thing I absolutely love about Gilbert as a writer is her warm, sensitive voice and her simple, yet sophisticated way of telling very human tales. Pilgrims is a collection of her short stories, and, as ever, Gilbert is true to style. And for everyone who loves the gritty America of seedy bars, cowboy boots and wide open spaces, this book focuses on that theme beautifully.

Having said that, not all of the stories spoke to me. Some I found made no impression on me at all (Elk Talk, Alice to the East, Come and Fetch These Stupid Kids). Others I found too bizarre to enjoy (The Names of Flowers and Girls, The Famous Torn and Restored Lit Cigarette Trick, The Finest Wife, Bird Shot). And then there were a few I absolutely loved (Landing, Pilgrims, The Many Things Denny Brown Did Not Know (Age Fifteen), At The Bronx Terminal Vegetable Market).

But I think this is inevitable in a book of short stories, and I wonder whether that is the beauty of such a collection - There will be something in there for everyone, and different stories will mean different things to you at different times in your life. As such, it is a little box of treasures.
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on 10 December 1997
Of all the darned good stories I've come across, Elizabeth Gilbert writes the darnedest goodest, perhaps "the best." "The Famous Torn and Restored Lit Cigarette Trick" in particular has all the mistifying charms of the sleight of hand illusions she describes therein: it's dexterous and surprising, baffling and revelatory. Be warned--Gilbert writes seatbelts-off short fiction that reinvigorates the sleepy genre and makes it buy us all a drink.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 November 2016
Having struggled through Gilbert's two memoirs and not enormously enjoyed her first novel, 'Stern Men', I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed these short stories of ordinary Americans, set all over the country and mostly dealing with the lives of people in small towns. 'Pilgrims', the opening story, tells of the teenage love affair between a cowboy and a feisty girl from the East Coast working on his father's ranch, who dream of running off together, and includes some beautiful writing about the local landscape. The second story, about a boy and his mother who witness some visitors to their area summon the elks in the nearby woods, is subtle and touching. Elsewhere, Gilbert's protagonists include a middle-aged widower who picks up a hitchhiking brother and sister (or are they lovers) and becomes fascinated by the enigmatic girl; a painter whose career is set in motion when he decides to paint a nightclub singer called Babette (though he soon finds he cannot have the model and the painting); a teenage girl who ends up getting drawn into a ridiculous escapade by her 'spoilt, foolish' rich boyfriend; a violent Hungarian emigre and his magician daughter; and a middle-aged bar-owner who falls in love with her nephew. The American settings - often, I think, the Mid-West - are well captured, and the dialogue is good, far stronger than in 'Stern Men'.

Occasionally I have to admit I think that Gilbert set up a dramatic and unusual situation then walked away from it too soon. The story of Jimmy the vegetable hauler from Brooklyn who decides to challenge his Italian union leader seemed to be building to a big climax but then fizzled out into inconclusive misery; the pathology of the Hungarian who murdered two men and then became obsessed with his neighbours (and the reason they took his pet rabbit) could have been explained more clearly; the psychology of Ellen the bar-tender who decides to bed her nephew could have been explored with more sensitivity and in more detail - particularly if said nephew was a blood-relative! At their weakest, the stories either meander (like the one about the bird shoot) or veer towards sentimentality (like the final and weakest story, in which an elderly female school-bus driver finds herself on a celestial journey with all the men from her life). But there is some beautiful, very distinctive and original writing here, and a keen observing eye.

I'm going to be interested to read Gilbert's second novel now and to see if she carried the potential from this volume (missing rather from 'Stern Men' and her memoirs) over to that.
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on 14 April 1998
"Pilgrims" is a fascinating work - like a vice slowly tightening, Gilbert clamps on to the reader and never lets go. My personal favorite story is the gentle beautiful narrative about 15 year old Denny Brown. Gilbert balances the innocence and naivity of youth with the hidden lustiness that every teen encounters.
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on 1 February 2010
I read Eat Pray Love and thought it was a great read. The conversations were so vivid and amusing and I thought the author could tell a good story. I was very disappointed with this book. It is a collection of short stories and the beginning and middles are good, but without exception all the endings were disappointing. I would thoroughly recommend Eat Pray Love, but not Pilgrims.Pilgrims
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on 18 September 1997
Elizabeth Gilber is certainly a talent. The tales were diverse and interesting but I felt cheeted of completeness and closure. Each character faces his or her own pilgramage in each short story, and in the end, they are no closer than when they began. There is no "ah hah" so this is it. I felt each one was the begining of a to be continued series.
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on 19 June 2011
As a lover of all of Elizabeth Gilbert's work this was a fine refreshing treat to read. To enter the lives of various every day americans in their every day lives was both thought provoking and humbling. So if you have an afternoon free or your taking a long train journey why not pass away the hours with a bit of escapism to the lives of those in the mid west!
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on 16 September 1997
Elizabeth Gilbert has done that rare thing--not only has she made her debut with a short story collection, there is not a single misstep taken. This one definitely lives up to the hype. Do yourself a favor--read it.
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on 22 September 1997
Gilbert's writing is magical and this debut holds forth the promise America's next great writer. It is a must read.
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