I like books that have mysterious titles, the source of which become revealed during the course of reading them and London is the Best City in America does just this. I won’t reveal the reference here – that would be telling and spoiling it for you although it is about one of our main characters, Emmy.
Laura Dave’s novel is an exploration of relationships but focuses really on those of Emmy and Josh; sister and brother respectively. The book starts with Emmy leaving her fiancé in a motel room in Rhode Island and then deals with the present day situation of Josh, who is about to get married to Meryl, his long time girlfriend. Emmy has been living a life where she has not needed to confront her decision to leave Matt, and chose to stay away from Scarsdale, her home town. Josh is a successful doctor but surprises Emmy with a secret shortly before his wedding and involves her in his trying to resolve it. What Josh reveals to her makes her question her view of her brother but by extension, a lot of other stuff which she thought she knew. Also, around is Josh’s best friend, Berringer with whom Emmy has an attraction and one that is returned.
I really liked this book. The characters that Dave creates in Emmy and Josh are likeable and believable and you get a real sense of the difficulty that Josh is having in deciding which way he wants his life to go. Emmy is drifting and Dave shows how a life can be constructed by someone to conceal and also shield themselves from issues in life that they really need to confront, but either don’t know how to or haven’t come to that realisation just yet; the realisation that there are other choices available to them but they need to be open to them and also brave enough to face them.
Emmy chose to remain in Rhode Island after leaving Matt and decides to make film interviews of the wives of fishermen who go out to sea for months at a time, whilst their wives remain on shore in a state of stasis, taking care of the kids and waiting for their husbands to return. The filming is a metaphor for how her life is going as she, too, is in a static state, waiting for something, only, unlike the wives, she is not sure what it is she is waiting or hoping for.
It is inevitable that she needs to see Matt and deal with the past and the abrupt way that it ended but it takes a while and a serendipitous meeting in order for this to happen.
There is gentle humour throughout and I liked the way that Emmy and Berringer are drawn to each other but also, that this was not the main focus of the story. Laura Dave has just crafted a very good book about people, the tangles into which they get themselves just by living and loving and how it is not always easy to see what you can gain from life but you get nothing if you choose to shrink from it.
Parts of this review were previously published on Reedsy Discovery.