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.