I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma
Published by Viking on February 16, 2016
Genres: Coming of Age, Literature & Fiction, Urban Life
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As Kristopher Jansma’s absorbing new novel opens, five friends are making their way through heavy snowfall to gather at the lavish holiday party of the art gallery where Irene, the most enigmatic of the bunch, works as an assistant. It’s 2008, five years after the group graduated from college together: Sara Sherman, a blog editor and social butterfly; George Murphy, her caring, if troubled, astronomer boyfriend; Jacob Blaumann, a poet manqué and their loudmouth third wheel; William Cho, an awkward but well-meaning investment banker; and Irene Richmond, a visionary artist in her own right. But this party marks a more momentous evening than any of them realize. Irene will first notice a curious lump under her eye. William will fall desperately in love with her. And George will, at long last, ask Sara to marry him.
We follow this cast of rich, warmly drawn characters as they scrape by chasing their dreams in Great Recession New York, still a challenge in their late twenties, after other acquaintances have dropped like flies and they must cling tighter to one another for support. Their greatest test yet is about to arrive, when Irene confesses that a biopsy of her lump revealed it to be a malignant bone tumor. Over the next year, she undergoes difficult rounds of treatment and the group struggles to carry on together as her illness threatens to tear them irreparably apart.
I don’t know if I have ever wanted a book to end after part one as much as I did with Why We Came to the City. After struggling a bit with chapter one, as characters were introduced at a rapid pace and it took me a bit to figure out who they all were. Once I was settled into the players and their stories I was engrossed. I felt with them and loved with them and grieved with them. I thought the end of the first part was perfection and would have been quite content for it to end there. When I turned the (virtual) page and realized the book was still going, I was a little pissed. Why continue? It ended so well. But I needed to finish and it took a bit, but I melded back into the story again. And I’m glad I did. The true ending was very well thought out and did bring some needed closure.
Kristopher Jansma created a very real and vivid world in Why We Came to the City. The settings matched the story well and enhanced the scenes. The plot was well thought out. Each point fed into the next and created a well blended story. The writing was nuanced and had a fine hue. Jansma has a distinctive voice and he used it to full advantage. The characters all played well within the tale; some were stronger and created a driving force the others rotated around. The emotions were high. It would be hard to craft a tale around a dying young woman without an emotional heft and Why We Came to the City had it.
I did truly enjoy Why We Came to the City, even if I wanted it to end early. I always try to respect the author’s vision but sometimes struggle with how I picture the ending. I am glad it ended the way it did, as it tied everything up nicely. I have also heard great things about Jansma’s first book The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, so I will have to see if my library has it. So if you are looking for a tale of enduring friendship with a lot of heart pick up a copy of Why We Came to the City.
Favorite lines – …his New York family had indeed been happy in the way that all groups of young dreamers are happy before they’ve given up, they were all quite unhappy now in their own ways. That was what made it all the more miserable: they couldn’t even be unhappy together.
Biggest cliché – As long as nothing changes, we will all be happy.
Have you read Why We Came to the City, or added it to your TBR?
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2016 New Release Challenge
- Mount TBR Reading Challenge
- Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge
- The Goodreads Challenge