This is a book I didn’t get a chance to review on WKAR’s Current Strate. And since it is a few month’s since its release it didn’t feel fair keeping it locked away. I hope you enjoy this new book review for Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. (And if you would like to check out the book for yourself, you can find it on amazon here.)
When you are in your twenties, sometimes it can feel like the world is your oyster and ripe with possibilities. This feeling is definitely true for the group of friends that make up the center of Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. At the beginning of the story, they are sneaking into elite art parties in New York City, complaining about the more successful, and passing out on couches… many times not their own.
At the heart of the story is Irene. She is a young artist with a hidden past. Even her closest friends don’t even know her real name, yet there is something about her that is fascinating to all that meet her. She searches through garbage looking for things for her art, and writes messages in books that she hopes others will find in time. And everyone seems to know her in the Big Apple.
When Irene is diagnosed with cancer, it shatters more than just her own view of the world, but the view of each of her friends. For Jacob, who enjoys acting as the angry and loud poet, he has a hard time focusing his feelings around her illness. For George, an astronomer, he turns to alcohol, and in time not even the drinks give him the numbness he needs. William is the newest member of the group, and all of his interest is around Irene. He dreams about her, and then when she shows interest in him, he can’t help but wonder why. The member of the team who puts up a fight is Sara. From planning her wedding to George to taking Irene to her doctor appointments, she is in charge, or at least trying to present the image of that control. Sara is certain that with the right plan and right doctor things will work out for her friend.
It could be said that another main character in this fascinating book is reality. For it is something that each character has to deal with and accept, and they always seem ill prepared for its shocks. Jansema takes the time in this book to shatter the illusions of invincibility that comes with youth, and then asks the big questions about what comes after. Of course, the answers to those elusive questions are different for each character, just like it is for each of us.
The only real snag with the book is that once the inevitable occurs with Irene, you miss her as much as the characters. And the problems in the characteristics of her friends become painfully obvious. It’s a neat trick, but it can get a little tiring. Yet, it is a small complaint and shouldn’t deter any readers.
Why We Came to the City sometimes feels like a cry. A muffled scream begging for some kind of direction and understanding. Which makes George’s job as an astronomer so interesting. In a beautiful moment near the end the stars are able to guide him and Sara when they are lost. If only the heavens worked so well for all of us.
Permanent Spring Showers was published by 5 Prince Books. You can find out more about my novel as well as my other books (including A Jane Austen Daydream and My Problem With Doors) and grab a copy via my author page on Amazon.com here.