I really liked Brown's freshman novel All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, so I was excited to pick up her sophomore effort. This is Where We Live definitely had the same feel as her first novel: pensive, heavy, and dealing with life issues that are complicated, messy, and just part of life sometimes.
The story and plot were fine - and apt for the times. Claudia and Jeremy are early/mid-30s artsy couple (she's an aspiring screenwriter, he's an aspiring musician) living in LA. They bought a bungalow a few years back with ARM, and their interest rate has recently reset, causing their payments to balloon out of their means. They struggle with maintaining their creative ambitions - both personally and as a couple - with the often not-so-fun demands of adulthood. To further complicate the picture, their aspriring careers are going nowhere fast and Jeremy's ex-girlfriend - an avante garde and highly successful artist, with a penchant for drama and histrionics - recently emailed him wanting to get back in touch.
While the story unfolds somewhat predictably, Brown's talent remains - as it did in her first novel - in translating the complex emotional elements the characters are experiencing from raw feelings to words that the reader can pick up, hold, ponder and ultimately step in to, however miserable or uncomfortable, for a short time. This is the kind of book, thanks to Brown's writing, that will stay with you after you put it down. At least, from an emotional perspective. While I feel like a lot of the predicaments Claudia and Jeremy got themselves into were largely of their own making, they remain sympathetic (for the most part - there were some times I wanted to hurl something at them to get their attention). It was told in similar fashion to AWEWWE, with alternating narrators for each chapter. This can sometimes come off gimmicky and repetitive, but Brown handled it well, and it gave me better insight into the characters and added some meaning and reason behind some of the decisions they made.
While I liked this book, and would likely recommend it (depending on the person), I still can't bring myself to give it anything better than 3 stars. Perhaps because it made me moody with it's dark themes and raw emotions. Perhaps because there's a strong sense that this is someone's real life; someone - maybe in LA, even - is living something pretty similar to this right now. I'm not quite sure. But 3 stars feels right to me (as is really a good rating coming from me). It's not as great as her first book, but it's still Brown through-and-through. If you liked AWEWWE, odds are you'll like this one, too.