Elizabeth Gilbert Halts Release of Next Book After Backlash Over Setting in Russia

Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert has announced that she will halt the release of her upcoming novel, The Snow Forest, following a “massive” backlash regarding its setting in Russia. In a video announcement shared on Twitter, Gilbert stated that she would remove the book from the release calendar in response to criticism from Ukrainians, whose country has been at war with Russia since its invasion in February 2022.

Regarding her Ukrainian readers’ feedback, Gilbert expressed that she had received an “enormous, massive outpouring of reactions and responses,” including anger, sorrow, disappointment, and pain regarding the story being set in Russia. She emphasized that she needed to listen and make a course correction.

Originally scheduled for release in February 2024, exactly two years after the invasion of Ukraine, Gilbert decided that publishing the book at this time would not be appropriate. She stated her intention to avoid adding further harm to a group of people who have already experienced grievous and extreme harm. Gilbert affirmed that she had heard and respected the messages she received and acknowledged that it was not the right time for the book to be published.

The new publication date for The Snow Forest has not been announced.

Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild, a professional organization for published writers, expressed support for Gilbert’s decision. While the guild believes that books should never be censored or banned, Rasenberger emphasized that authors have the right to decide when and how to publish their work. She stated that Gilbert empathized with the pain of her Ukrainian readers, and her decision not to bring further harm to them is respected.

Following the controversy, The Snow Forest has received over 500 one-star reviews on the book-recommendation website Goodreads, with numerous reviews criticizing the book’s Russian setting.

According to Gilbert, The Snow Forest is set in Siberia during the middle of the last century. The novel explores a group of individuals who choose to separate themselves from society in order to resist the Soviet government.

In the meantime, Gilbert plans to focus on other projects and offer refunds for any novel preorders. The 53-year-old author and journalist gained international recognition with her bestselling novel Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia, which sold over 10 million copies worldwide. The book was later adapted into a film featuring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem.