I am a sucker for books about post-college groups of friends. That rootless, confusing time of life, when you’ve left the college cocoon and have to figure out what you want to do and who you want to be, lends itself so well to fiction. And groups of people with changing – often conflicting – goals and desires can make for a compelling story. That’s why I picked up Lauryn Chamberlain’s novel Who We Are Now, which is exactly that type of book.
Why I picked it up: See above.
When Who We Are Now opens in 2006, Dev, Clarissa, Rachel and Nate are about to graduate from Northwestern (a college that seems to be popping up in fiction a lot lately). Best friends, the foursome lives together off-campus and has the kind of bond that college students develop over the years, one that they believe can never be tested. But after they go their separate ways and pursue different professional goals and personal relationships, they inevitably start to grow apart. Each chapter focuses on a different character, and as the years and decades pass by, they each experience losses and disappointments along with accomplishments and triumphs. At the end, a tragedy (hinted atin the first chapter) brings them back together and forces them to face – and close- the distance that has grown between them.
Here’s what I liked: Chamberlain’s writing style (detailed and realistic), how well she nailed the 20s and 30s, the rotating focus on the four characters; the NYC setting. The lack of a strong plot didn’t bother me; I enjoyed checking in on the characters and tangentially learning about what the others were up to. Here’s what I didn’t like as much: the relentless melancholy; the ultimate lack of growth or depth to the characters; and the fact that the strong bond between the characters was more stated than depicted. In the end, the book was just sort of boring and took me longer to read than it should have.
If you love post-college books too, you might enjoy this one – there are lots of positive reviews on Goodreads and my complaints put me in the minority. I’m sure this is not the last of this microgenre that I will pick up!
Who We Are Now was the 44th book of 2023.