Why We Came to the City

Why We Came to the City

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Hardcover, Pages: 418

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, New York

Reads: 80

Downloads: 3601

Rating: Rated: 1966 timesRate It

Why We Came to the City
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Book Description

A warm, funny, and heartfelt novel about a tight-knit group of twentysomethings in New York whose lives are upended by tragedy—from the widely acclaimed author of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards

December, 2008. A heavy snowstorm is blowing through Manhattan and the economy is on the brink of collapse, but none of that matters to a handful of guests at a posh holiday party. Five years after their college graduation, the fiercely devoted friends at the heart of this richly absorbing novel remain as inseparable as ever: editor and social butterfly Sara Sherman, her troubled astronomer boyfriend George Murphy, loudmouth poet Jacob Blaumann, classics major turned investment banker William Cho, and Irene Richmond, an enchanting artist with an inscrutable past.

Amid cheerful revelry and free-flowing champagne, the friends toast themselves and the new year ahead—a year that holds many surprises in store. They must navigate ever-shifting relationships with the city and with one another, determined to push onward in pursuit of their precarious dreams. And when a devastating blow brings their momentum to a halt, the group is forced to reexamine their aspirations and chart new paths through unexpected losses.

Kristopher Jansma’s award-winning debut novel, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, was praised for its  “wry humor” and “charmingly unreliable narrator” in The New Yorker and hailed as “F. Scott Fitzgerald meets Wes Anderson” by The Village Voice. In Why We Came to the City, Jansma offers an unforgettable exploration of friendships forged in the fires of ambition, passion, hope, and love. This glittering story of a generation coming of age is a sweeping, poignant triumph.

Reviews
  •    Shaktizahn Harandus
    2020
    A few years back, I had the great fortune of receiving an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of Kristopher Jansma's The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards. I enjoyed it. It was filled with breathtaking sentences and magic. The structure, the metafictional elements, the style—it all reminded me a tad of David Mitchell, but in no way did I feel Jansma was trying to emulate Mitchell; Jansma had a voice all his own. I was hooked.

    So I was excited to get my hands on a copy of Jansma's follow-up, Why We Came to the City. Once again, I had the pleasure of finding an ARC. What an amazing novel it is. And, oh, how so different from the author's earlier work.

    Why We Came to the City is the tale of five friends, in their twenties, trying to make a life in New York City. One of the friends has an inscrutable past that haunts her. Then tragedy strikes and everyone must chose if they'll collapse under the strain or press on. Sound familiar? Yeah, it's a trendy premise, right? Most notable is last year's buzz book, A Little Life. But in all the ways I felt A Little Life failed—unbelievable scenarios, incomprehensible characters, a disconnect from realism—this book succeeds. These are realistic characters with realistic struggles who are put into realistic scenarios. Given Jansma's previous novel, I was quite surprised by all this realism myself.

    But oh how gorgeous it is. These kinds of stories are the reason I read. Primarily, I read because I want to feel, I want to have empathy for someone from a different walk of life. Why We Came to the City reached deep into my chest and pulled out my beating heart. I admit, I was a little disappointed that Jansma barely tapped the magical style he so clearly is skilled in, but the magic of this novel happens in the heart, not the brain.

    I really hope this one takes off. Obviously, it's too early to award any “Best of the Year” prizes, but I think this one will make quite a few of the lists. It's a beautifully rendered story and so much more accessible than its contemporaries.
    Reply
  •    Viran Csmereka
    2020
    (4.5) Five university friends strive to make their lives count against the indifferent backdrop of recession-era New York City. When one of them falls ill, they pull together like a family. The tone of the novel lies somewhere between A Little Life and the sitcom Friends (a Mexican version of which the characters watch obsessively). Even as his characters realize that they are not special and not in control of their lives, Jansma never lets his book descend too far into gloom. This narrowly misses out on 5 stars from me because the storyline loses momentum in Part Two. Rich with emotion and literary allusions (from Walden to The Iliad), this is my favorite novel of the year so far.

    See my full review at The Bookbag.
    Reply

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