This Must Be The Place / Anna Winger

Synopsis: “Walter Baum has one of the most famous voices in Germany, if no longer a famous face. A former television star, he’s been dubbing Tom Cruise’s lines into German for fifteen years, since he returned from a failed attempt to make it as an actor in Hollywood. Now he finds himself nearing forty, alone and adrift.

In the apartment just below him, a young American woman named Hope is slipping further and further into herself. Having fled New York a month earlier to join her workaholic husband in Berlin, she finds herself more isolated than ever and unable to cope with the sense of foreboding created by the haunted city around her and the painful memories from the one she just left.

These two broken people form an unlikely friendship, at first out of loneliness, but then deepening out of genuine affinity. They are finally forced to reveal their secrets and examine their pasts, and, as a pair, they explore how to reconcile their hopes for the future with the ache of history that lingers, permanently, beneath the surface.

Funny, insightful, and moving, This Must Be the Place is an expertly crafted debut novel about the events that bind us together and the friendships that make and remake us whole.


 

Review: Last semester, I took an English class called “Post Contemporary Literature” and I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be about. Basically, it took the contemporary genre of literature and pushed it further: to works specifically written about and after 9/11. This book was the last one on the syllabus, and it blew me away.

Winger captures the idea of trauma and pain in these characters beautifully and uses their differences to show that loss is felt by everyone. She uses Berlin, Germany as the setting and then sprinkles small bits of New York into the narrative to connect the two disasters.

The melding of storylines felt effortless, the writing was beautiful, and it was easy to not only empathize with the characters but also see that they were making mistakes too. I think it’s easy in a novel to want to create a “perfect character” who the readers will feel bad for because they have never done anything bad. In this novel however we can see how Hope and Walter sometimes mess things up for themselves, but that just adds to their relatable-ness as human characters.

This novel touches on ideas of friendship, love, loss, history, and how we can never cover up or change the past. I personal think it was fantastic, and I would definitely recommend reading it if you haven’t. Also, there’s a lot of Tom Cruise / American 80’s pop culture references that are hilarious.

 

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