Author Elizabeth Gilbert will not release her new book after receiving backlash from fans over the book’s setting in Russia, she announced on Monday.
Gilbert’s newest novel “The Snow Forest” was due for release in February 2024, but Gilbert told fans in a Twitter video Monday afternoon that she had decided to remove the book from its planned publication schedule.
The author – known for her 2006 memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” – explained that her book is set in the middle of Siberia during the 20th century and is about a group that “made a decision to remove themselves from society, to resist the Soviet government, and to try to defend nature against industrialization.”
Gilbert said an announcement of her book elicited a negative response from her Ukrainian readers, “expressing anger, sorrow, disappointment, and pain” that she would “choose to release a book into the world right now … set in Russia.”
The book’s Goodreads page also received an onslaught of negative responses over the weekend, already posting more than 530 one-star ratings and more than 150 comments.
Important announcement about THE SNOW FOREST. Please note that if you were charged for your pre-order, you will be fully refunded. Thank you so much. pic.twitter.com/OAEmrjtfJx
— Elizabeth Gilbert (@GilbertLiz) June 12, 2023
Though the book depicts resistance against the Soviet government, Gilbert noted that the response from readers was directed toward “any book, no matter what the subject is.”
“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,” she said. “It is not the time for this book to be published.”
Gilbert’s decision sparked some criticism that she was censoring her work due to military conflict. PEN America, a nonprofit that advocates for free speech, responded that Gilbert’s decision was “well-intended” but that publication of a novel set in Russia “should not be cast as an act exacerbating oppression.”
Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberg said in a statement to NPR that the organization supports Gilbert’s decision: “Authors should never be required to withdraw books but must have the right to speak or not speak when they wish.”
Gilbert did not confirm whether the book would be published at a later date.
“I’ve got other book projects that I’m working on,” she said. “I made a decision to turn my attention to working on those now.”
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