What, at the end of the day, is really important?
Liv and her friends can’t imagine a life different from now: freedom, lifelong friendships, and dreams that are still within their reach.
Then, Liv dies.
For those left behind – Mia, Fraser, Anna, Norm and Melody – everything stops. Their lives and dreams are frozen in time.
In the years that follow, they decide to meet on Liv’s birthday to raise a toast and celebrate her life, even though none of them are living their own – not really. Time marches inexorably on, and yet without liv, the lynchpin of the group, they are all flailing. Mia and Fraser are quietly falling apart because of the secret their share and, as truths are unearthed and their friendships are tested to the limit, they have to ask themselves – is it time to get on with the business of actually living?
I was very intrigued to received How We Met from the lovely HarperCollins – it’s red, white, blue and gold colour scheme positively screamed “British!”, and made me a little nostalgic for 2012, year of Jubilee, Olympics and it being OK to be patriotic. Not pink, blue and silver – perhaps not your standard ‘chicklit’?
As I started to read, I wasn’t quite sure where the story was taking me. Swimming in the sea off Ibiza for one chapter, then into the cold and damp of the UK, remembering the death of a friend with Mia, a young single mum who we follow for quite a lot of the novel. Again, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of her at first; she seemed a bit ‘all over the place’, snatching a drink at the pub with her baby in the pushchair, and a smoke too. But then, as I read on, I started to realise, before the characters themselves perhaps, what a big impact the death of their friend Liv has really had on their lives.
Our other narrator is Fraser, Liv’s boyfriend at the time of her death. He’s even more of a mess; he’s letting his career slip, getting dangerously drunk, because he’s not got the responsibility of looking after a baby to keep him on track. And yet, he’s a very likable, sympathetic character, just like Mia once you get to know her.
I think the colour scheme of the cover of How We Met really does tell you a lot – it’s a very British book in a number of ways. The main thing that strikes me is the way the characters deal with communicating their feelings to each other, or maybe I should say, failing to communicate! Despite being friends for years (more than half a lifetime in the case of Fraser and Norm), they’re paralysed by the idea of telling each other how they really feel about things. This is shown in stark comparison to Eduardo, Mia’s “Latino Stallion” summer fling turned quasi-boyfriend, who has no problem articulating his disgust for Fraser and his annoyance at doing anything useful.
The five remaining friends are caught in a painful, intricate dance around each other, not wanting to admit the ways in which they have and haven’t changed, what they do and don’t need. Their success, or lack thereof, in relationships mirrors this. It’s a failure to communicate, and therefore be honest, which spells disaster. I’m not a frequent ‘chicklit’ reader but I was really drawn into the puzzle – what is the secret between Mia and Fraser? Why has Melody turned into a Stepford Wife? Why is Anna not speaking to them? What will happen between Fraser and Karen, the nice but not-quite-right barmaid? WILL IT ALL WORK OUT IN THE END?!
I did find this an interesting, enjoyable read. I’d certainly recommend it to readers of women’s fiction, old and young, as a great dissection of the problems of typically British relationships!
How We Met is published by Harper