WHY WE CAME TO THE CITY, by Kristopher Jansma, is a big ode to Manhattan and coming of age in the Big Apple.
“With incredible magnetism, Jansma chronicles the trials of a tightly knit group of twenty-somethings, taking on post 9/11 New York City in the midst of the 2008 economic meltdown. When first we meet Irene, William, George, Sara, and Jacob, they have been in New York nearly five years. They are overworked, underpaid, and trapped in coffin-sized apartments. Yet somehow, through the bug infestations, the boozy late nights, and myriad uncomfortable dates, they have stuck together, ambitious young professionals on the verge of something bigger. None of them, however, imagined that that something could be death and that would tug at the very fabric between them until it nearly unspools.”
Written with great passion and wit, Jansma brings to the writing table a big book filled with realistic characters dealing with larger- than- life situations. Sara is an editor with a serious boyfriend who’s an astronomer named George. William is a classics major who joins the group last. And there is Jacob who is a loud and outspoken poet. But it is Irene’s story that breaks our hearts and tests the limit of the group altogether.
Who is Irene and why is she so important to this novel? Irene is a sprite of an artist who makes “stuff” from trash. She’s fun and witty and full of love. She’s everyone’s best friend. When she becomes sick the “group” bucks up and stands at attention; each in his or her own way.
There is a scene early in the novel where the “group” is celebrating at a big year-end gala. It’s snowing and they are at a party in a Manhattan hi-rise. One by one they ditch their clothes and hop into the hot tub. Yikes. Drinking champagne and pontificating wildly, you get a true sense of each of their personalities. And it’s all quite funny.
In an interview, Jansma tells about discovering that his sister was diagnosed with oral cancer when he was 24 years-old. She moved into his cramped, one-bedroom apartment that he shared with his then-fiancee. She was receiving treatment at a local hospital. For months, Jansma , still facing his own day-to-day challenges and commitments, shuttled his sister to appointments, picked up her countless prescriptions from the pharmacy, and fed her nutrient-rich milkshakes when her throat became too sore to swallow solid foods. This all certainly gives him the experience to write this ambitious book.
This book is filled with ambition and heartache. It’s about friendship and passion and hope and love.
I would liken the writing of Jansma to an early Franzen. Jansma’s first novel THE UNCHANEAGEABLE SPOTS OF LEOPARDS, received lots of chatter in the literary world.
I received my beautiful finished hard cover in exchange for an honest opinion. I really liked it. Jansma is a young author to watch! thanks Viking.