Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert will indefinitely delay publication of a novel set in Russia following what she claims was an onslaught of “anger, sorrow, disappointment and pain” from Ukrainian readers.
“The Snow Forest, a dramatic story of one wild and mysterious girl in a pristine wilderness,” is set in Soviet-era Siberia and was scheduled for release in February 2024.
“I want to say that I have heard these messages and read these messages, and I respect them,” Gilbert said in a video message posted Monday to her social media accounts. “As a result, I’m making a course correction, and I’m removing the book from its publication schedule.”
“I do not want to add any harm to a group of people who have already experienced, and who are continuing to experience, grievous and extreme harm,” the author continued, conceding that it is “not the time” for the book’s publication and promising refunds for all preorders.
Despite the book being devoid of modern war connotations and being advertised as “far, far, far from everything that we call normal,” critics castigated Gilbert’s decision to publish content featuring Russia in any capacity amid the Eurasian superpower’s ongoing invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
The book has already been bombarded with over 500 one-star ratings on book reviewing website Goodreads, and many of the nearly 200 reviews posted bemoan its insensitivity and supposed romanticizing of a major international conflict’s aggressor.
While the book itself garnered complaints of insensitivity, Gilbert’s ensuing decision to hold off on its publication drew the ire of free speech advocates.
“The timing of the uproar, right after Gilbert announced the forthcoming publication, makes clear that those objecting have not yet had a chance to read or judge the work itself,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said. “The publication of a novel set in Russia should not be cast as an act exacerbating oppression,” adding that “the choice of whether to read Gilbert’s book lies with readers themselves.”
Gilbert’s million-selling 2006 memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” charted as a New York Times bestseller for roughly six months after its publication.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.