This Is Where We Live - Janelle Brown
I won this book on First Reads, and I am very glad I did.  Jannelle Brown's This Is Where We Live has tied with Emma Donoghue's Room as the best book I have read this year. 

This Is Where We Live is about the relationship between Jeremy, a musician trying desperately to hold his band together so they can finish their album, and Claudia, and up and coming screenwriter/director, and how they cope, individually and together, with the looming foreclosure of their home, which occurs at the same time that they begin to realize their chosen careers may not pan out as they had planned. These two characters were very realistically brought to life by Ms. Brown. As the story opened, I found them both to be very likeable, and exactly the type of people I could see myself knowing and socializing with. As they each come to terms with events that seemed to be spinning wildly out of their control, I was able to imagine myself in their position, and I could very easily see myself agreeing to either of the two very different solutions they came up with. Sadly, neither was able to convince the other that their idea was good, and in one nostalgic moment of panic, a decision is made with far-reaching consequences. My heart broke for these two people, so in love with each other, and so desperate to cling onto their dreams, as their fears overcame their ability to think and communicate rationally. My heart sank as that ill-fated decision was made, and I sobbed as I read the aftermath of that decision. And I sobbed again when I read the eponymous last line of the book. The ending may seem abrupt, but it fit. Being a sucker for happy endings, I choose to believe everything worked out, but it is left just open-ended enough to leave some remnant of doubt. I can easily imagine dragging the events of the story out so it ends another hour or so later, leaving no doubt whatsoever that everything will work out. However, that's just me wanting a sappy ending. I think if Ms. Brown had taken it any further, it would have cheapened the story.

The true emphasis of the story, Jeremy and Claudia's relationship, seems to have taken a back seat to what I see as two gimmicks 1) that it is a story about Los Angeles and the entertainment industry and; 2) that it is a story about the bursting of the real estate bubble.

As far as it being about Los Angeles, yes, it takes place in the city I was born and raised in, and it was nice for a change to be able to pull up mental images of all the places mentioned (for some reason, most of the books I read take place in London, a city which I have sadly never been to). A non-Angelino reading this book might come to the conclusion that everyone in this city is in some way associated with some aspect of the entertainment industry. This is not true. I have never had any aspirations to be part of it, but that doesn't mean I don't know people who have. Jeremy and Claudia are people I could easily know. I work as a legal secretary, and every firm I have worked at during the 20 or so years I have been doing this (and none of them have practiced entertainment law), there is always someone (or someone's spouse) trying to get into the business, and working in whatever capacity they can just to pay the bills until they either make it or give up. I even worked with someone who actually had an album produced, and I remember being invited to the release party. Yet, I don't really think it's accurate to say this is a book about Los Angeles, or about the entertainment industry. The setting and the industry just provide the backdrop for their story of the two central characters.

The bust of the real estate market is also just backdrop for the real story, that of Jeremy and Claudia's relationship. Any type of disaster, financial or natural, could have been used to set the events in motion. It could just as easily have taken place in the aftermath of Katrina.

Ms. Brown has simply written about what she knows. She lives in Los Angeles, so the setting was familiar to her, and she witnessed the implosion of the real estate market. And while these two things may have been her inspiration for writing This Is Where We Live, they are not the story. Her novel is about relationships, betrayal and love, and the day to day setbacks and disappointments we all experience. All in all, I found this book to be thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable.