How do you write a memoir that’s all about love without becoming a cliche? Mandy Len Catron did exactly that by writing an insanely popular essay for the New York Times titled “to fall in love with anyone, do this” which was eventually turned into her memoir/book of essays called How to Fall In Love With Anyone. I have a few misgivings and doubts about this book now that I’ve read it, but I’ll still recommend it to my girlfriends because I know EACH AND EVERYONE OF THEM has pondered the topics Catron addresses in this book.
First, let me say how much I hate a book of essays; I think it’s a lazy form of writing. Basically it’s just taking a bunch of stories and not connecting them. If only a few more months were spent in the editing process a coherent path could be drawn through each story connecting them properly which would make it much more enjoyable to read…but I digress.
Catron takes us on a journey through her (fairly young) life, beginning with the dissolution of her 10 year romantic relationships and interspersing stories of her parents divorce after 28 years, her grandmother’s marriage at 15 (to a 31 year old no less), and some academic research thrown in here and there.
She also explores the culture around dating and love. One of my favourite quotes clarifies this fascination we have with other people’s relationships:
“Not everyone who eats imagines herself a dietitian, but nearly everyone who has loved-which is nearly everyone-presumes to know something about how to do it right” (p. 161, ARC)
So true!!!! I couldn’t agree with this statement more, and I think it points out the absurdity of giving friends and family romantic advice. Not that I think we should stop that, because it’s super fun, but we shouldn’t take this advice so seriously!
Another one of my favorite parts of the book was Catron’s dissection of specific fairy tales and how this has shaped the way women see love. She also points out that many popular women’s magazines feature articles on how to be a pleasing partner above all else. This observation is by no means unique, but it’s worth repeating until we smarten up and stop reading crap like that.
So I found this book really illuminating for some of the reasons above, but it probably goes without saying that each person will have a different reaction to this book based on their relationship status alone. I’m disappointed that I didn’t come away with any overall ‘message’ from the book, but I suppose that’s the point.
Lastly, I highly recommend you read Arthur Aron’s 36 questions (which plays a role in Catron’s life) because it’s a fun exercise to do with your partner/friend/tinder date. The questions are reprinted at the back of the book, or you can click on the link I provided above.
About Mandy Len Catron
Originally from Appalachian Virginia, Mandy Len Catron now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her writing has appeared in the The New York Times, The Walrus, and The Rumpus as well as literary journals and anthologies. She writes about love and love stories at The Love Story Project (TheLoveStoryProject.ca). She teaches English and creative writing at the University of British Columbia. Her article “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This” was one of the most popular articles published by The New York Times in 2015. How to Fall in Love with Anyone is her first book.
» Book Reviewer & Host Of Wordfest Bookclub: About Anne Logan
Anne Logan has worked in the Canadian publishing industry for 7 years and loved every minute of it. She reads a lot and I does not want to keep her opinions to myself, and so she reviews books.