How We Met by Michele A'Court
Michele A’Court is a feisty and very funny comedian. She is also an excellent writer, as proved with her first book, Stuff I Forgot To Tell My Daughter. She brings her engaging, witting storytelling style to her second book, a story of how shared memories bind us together, How We Met.
How We Met is an exceedingly wonderful book. In it, A’Court has spent three years recording the stories of how 42 couples met and then has woven those stories into a book peppered with humour, deepened with analysis from a psychologist and a scientist, as well as her own musings on why and how story binds us.
It’s human, honest and touching. Where a book like this could be saccharine, How We Met is authentic. There is a fascinating section on chemical attraction, and the bizarre phenomena of ‘love at first sight.’ A’Court’s skill is weaving the narratives together so that the whole feels like more than a sum of its parts.
A’Court has deliberately chosen a range of Kiwi-based couples to include, with the only stipulation that they should have been together 15 years or more. The book includes same-sex couples, but A’Court notes with regret that she couldn’t entice any transgender or non-binary couples to be included.
The couples range from those who met when they were very young to second times around. There are many missed chances, bizarre twists, and all the mixed-up awkwardness you would expect in the fullness of humanity. And it’s fantastic.
A’Court began the book with the idea that shared memories help bind us together, and a great story of our beginning as a couple might also help our relationship to survive. The question is, does the great story make the great relationship, or vice versa? And the psychologist’s answer is both: our story is woven out of the need for it and a strong story is a sign of a solid relationship.
It’s fascinating hearing the way people recount their stories, the parts they tell, the things they remember. For example, there is one couple who both swear they first encountered each other with the other one at the top of a staircase bathed in a golden light. Both can’t be right, but it’s the feeling about seeing the other one there they have absorbed. It’s a good lesson about memory and how it is not fixed, but bi-directional, and the way we tell our story about the most important person in our lives can change depending on our mood or how we feel about the relationship overall.
On finishing How We Met I felt enormously happy for all the couples involved. The book gave me hope for love. Not romantic showy love, but real love, with people who are kind to each other even when it’s impossibly hard. Not everyone has a great ‘love at first sight’ story, but this book reminds us that that’s not what is important. The important part is how we tell the story of how we fell in love with our partner, at whatever point that occurred. We all need stories about ourselves, and in How We Met we see couples co-creating this part their story, and how it cements their love and also rekindles it. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Heidi North