Eat, Pray, WHAT?!

I fully admit I am Central New York's newest transplant, but I feel like I am the first person to notice a New York Times bestselling author based her latest book in Clinton.

Which is, ironically, the town I now call home. Was it fate I picked this book up??

Instant Bestseller

I'm talking about Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book City of Girls. Yes, the same Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat, Pray, Love.

Courtesy Riverhead Books
Courtesy Riverhead Books

The book was released to rave reviews in 2019 and spent three weeks on the NYT Best Sellers list.

So, imagine my surprise when reading this book, in 2023, that the main character is from Clinton, NY! I felt my chest swelling with pride to know I was finally living in the same setting as a bestselling book.

So, I did a little research to see how my Central New Yorkers felt about the surprise honor - and found nothing. Perhaps a local review here or there, but no one mentioning that, out of all of New York's historic small towns, Gilbert wanted her main character to come from Clinton.

Could I have missed these headlines because Google's algorithm is horrific, even when I asked it to specifically search for headlines around the time the book was released? Absolutely.

That said, in the rare chance this is also news to my fellow Central NYers, then maybe there was a reason I decided to read this book after I moved into the 13323 zip code.

What's the book about?

City of Girls is set in the years before World War II and follows 19-year-old protagonist Vivian Morris, who is realizing her destiny of being the black sheep of her affluent family.

Vivian is a reckless, strong-willed girl who prefers booze and vanity over everything her parents stood for, which causes her to destroy the future that was carefully constructed for her.

After getting kicked out of Vassar College at the end of freshman year, she's sent to live in New York City with her Aunt Peg, who owns a run down theater in Manhattan.

Manhattan Skyline With Empire State Building
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Vivian takes a shining to the performing arts -- and soon her sexual side after befriending a showgirl named Celia. Eventually, Vivian's reckless nature catches up with her and she winds up in the center of a sex scandal.

This description may make it seem the story is set firmly in the Big Apple, but there are plenty of scenes and flashbacks that take place in Central NY that are critical to building Vivian as a tangible character.

Who should read this book?

Easily, if you enjoy books set in New York, this is a book you'd enjoy because the writing style is delightful and Gilbert's prose is designed to trigger your imagination. It became a game of mine to imagine where in Clinton certain scenes took place and also what the area must have looked like back in the day.

Plus, the characters are diverse, vibrant, and feel like people who actually existed back then.

Jaredd Craig via Unsplash
Jaredd Craig via Unsplash

Secondly, if you love period pieces and have an obsession with the 30s and 40s - this book will scratch that itch. It's apparent Gilbert did her research on what New York was like during that era. There were moments that made me feel nostalgic for a time I never lived, but made me wish I was there to experience it.

Lastly, let's talk subliminal messages that may or may not tickle your fancy. The book tackles themes of sexism, female empowerment and sexual awakenings. So take that as a content warning or a green flag when considering City of Girls for your end-of-summer reading list.

In all, it's an enjoyable, nostalgic read that will make you hope to see this story hit the big screen. At least, that's how I feel about it.

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