A Review of The First Ten Years: Two Sides of the Same Love Story by Joseph Fink and Meg Bashwiner
Words By Erin Clements
Published May 11, 2021 by Harper Perennial
The First Ten Years: Two Sides of the Same Love Story is a joint memoir about the relationship between the Welcome to Night Vale podcast co-creator Joseph Fink and his wife, writer and performer Meg Bashwiner. The book follows them through the first ten years of their relationship, with alternating chapters where they discuss their interpretation of that year’s events.
“There are two sides to every love story,” as the tagline of the book says, and The First Ten Years explores those two sides fully. Joseph and Meg did not consult one another prior to writing their recounts, but they both end up diving into the most raw and vulnerable parts of their relationship and explore the subtle differences between how they remember each memory and what sticks out to them as memorable from each year of their relationship. Even when they remember details the same way, they have “their own narrative on just what they mean.”
I have been a fan of Welcome to Night Vale since its first season, so getting to read about the relationship between the show’s co-creator and one of the voice actors was fascinating. The text refuses to shy away from difficult experiences, tackling those topics in conjunction with acknowledging the good things, which make for an incredible reading experience. The book made me laugh and cry as it took me on a journey through international fame, world tours, the death of a parent, mental health issues, and bickering over who actually paid for the morning after pill after their first date. The text’s ability to balance the happy and the tragic in equal measure in ways that mirror life makes the book so much more poignant.
I loved how The First Ten Years gave me the chance to dig into what makes relationships what they are. How even couples that “become one” by adopting each other’s ways of being and thinking after being together for so long still interpret events differently, focus on different aspects of nuanced situations, and generally have different perspectives. The First Ten Years presents a couple of young dreamers in New York City falling in love and struggling to get by, who become adults with a flourishing relationship and discussions about having children. In many ways, it represents a microcosm of what it means to grow, change, and learn in one’s early twenties, and as a young dreamer approaching my mid-twenties myself, I found their story far more impactful and personal than I expected.
The only negative thing about this book is quite how targeted it is at fans of Joseph and Meg. If you don’t care about or at least know of them, it may be a less enjoyable reading experience because there is less incentive to care about their thoughts and experiences. Because their relationship was so affected by the sudden success of Welcome to Night Vale and those experiences shaping their relationship, readers without that wider context may find the text harder to relate to. That said, I do still think that even without the extra context, the book is an awesome exploration of how relationships adapt as people grow and change.