Published by Viking Adult on February 16, 2016
Genres/Lists: #30Authors, Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
I picked up Kristopher Jansma’s latest novel for two reasons: it’s getting rave reviews from readers I trust and he’s a #30Authors contributor. It’s hard to say which convinced me to pick it up sooner rather than later but I’m so glad that I did. Why We Came to the City is a stunning novel about a tightly knit group of friends, their relationships with each other, and how they cope in the aftermath of a tragedy that changes them all. It’s been compared to The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer but I disagree – this book is far better in that the writing style is more beautiful and the characters more real.
What’s unique about this novel is that everything comes in pairs; poetry and prose, before and after, the universe and the self, young and old, big and small, success and failure. This ability to write about both sides of the same coin on a variety of subjects demonstrates that Jansma knows what it means to grow up in a time when everything is equally hopeful and frightening. There were times when I would look up from my book and think, “Wow. He gets me.” Perhaps Katie at Doing Dewey said it best in her review, when she wrote, “The writing in this book was so beautiful. It spoke to me, resonated with me, made me want to read it out loud to savor every sentence. I loved the cadence of the sentences and I loved how so many of them expressed things I couldn’t put into words, but that perfectly described things I’ve felt before.”
Part of what makes the writing so beautiful is Jansma’s blending of poetry and prose, which allows the story to ebb and flow. At its core, this is a character-driven novel but there are passages so beautifully written and rich in their descriptions that it was easy to forget where I was. I could see, touch, and feel everything Jansma was describing, even if I had never experienced it before. Jansma’s ability to shine a light on the intricacies of friendship and inner struggles we all face at some point in our lives is uncanny, leaving me reevaluating my own friendships and inner struggles.Why We Came to the City by @kristopherjans is a stunning portrayal of the intricacies of friendship. #30Authors Click To Tweet
What really stood out, though, was the philosophical component. Jansma expertly sneaks in a lot of philosophical discussions that left me pondering them for days. From the vastness of the universe to the bigness of our selves, Why We Came to the City explores how each of us, no matter how small and inconsequential we are in the grand scheme of things, matter. One passage, in particular, that stayed with me is, “If the gods actually know our fates and still try to meddle and wage their wars in us, then there must be some purpose in our choosing one of the many paths to that end. Man must have free will, or else why would the gods themselves bother?”
By the time I finished the book, I felt as if I had been submerged and needed to come up for air. I was so ensconced in the story, both its ups and downs, that I was reluctant to see it end. It’s hard to put into words how beautiful this book is and my writing about it certainly pales in comparison to Jansma’s own writing but I highly recommend you experience it for yourself.
Recommended for: Readers who appreciate beautiful writing and stories about the intricacies of friendship over time.