Why We Came To The City by Kristopher Jansma

Don’t let the fact that it took me a while to get around to reviewing Kristopher Jansma‘s latest novel Why We Came To The City deceive you. I loved it. I loved it more than his debut novel, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards (review). It’s a novel that’s stuck with me and that I’ll be pushing into quite a few people’s hands.

Why We Came To The City is a much more straight forward novel than The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, and for that reason I think it will enjoy more widespread appeal. It’s about four friends living their post-university lives in New York City. It’s about youthful optimism slowly melting away under the hardships of the 2008 financial meltdown. George and Sarah represent the stability of the group and are on the road to marriage. Jacob and Irene, a poet and an artist,  are of more artistic temperaments and leave chaos in their wake. My description does not do the novel justice, but i don’t want to give too much away. The characters are wonderfully wrought and I was brought to tears reading the book.

I read Why We Came to The City shortly after reading Purity by Jonathan Franzen (review). Though both novels are by white guys from Brooklyn, they couldn’t be more different. Jansma shows that a white guy can write about women, minorities and LGBT characters that aren’t cardboard cutouts. Jansma has the sensitive eye, pen and voice that Franzen patently ignores. And that is just one of the things that distinguishes Jansma as a great writer.

Who would like this book? You loved The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (review), I know you did. I loved it too, but Why We Came To The City is even better. Jansma’s rendering of the group dynamics of young friends going through a tough time is spot on. To speak like oh so many millennials, it gave me all the feels.


  1. OK – I really have to give this a shot now. I sampled it awhile back, but didn’t buy the book for some reason, but have now seen a couple reviews and they were all glowing. And, I did love The Interestings…and also lived in NYC in the finance world during the 2008 crisis.

  2. okay! excellent to hear Tanya! I have this one and it is the one I want to pitch to our book club next month. We need to break out of our “regular” and choose something that we wouldn’t normally choose. I have the Unchangeable one too, but haven’t read that one yet.

  3. AHHHH you’re making me want to read this RIGHT NOW. I really liked his debut, but for some reason I’ve been putting this off (despite owning it). Like the groups of friends going through things plot is so not me. But, in that sense, his debut so wasn’t me either. And yet. I’m excited to see what Jansma’s been up to!

  4. Yesss! I honestly loved this book enough that I was nervous to read your review. There are few books I’d say that about. I particularly agree with your comments about the author’s ability to sensitively portray all of his characters and the appeal his work have for millennials I’ve been recommending it to everyone 🙂

  5. Pingback: I'm Going Contrarian: Why We Came to the City and The Midnight Assassin - Sarah's Book ShelvesSarah's Book Shelves

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