A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Published March 10th 2015 by Doubleday
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.
Hello, yes I am back. I know I’ve been MIA for a week and a half, it’s partly cause of being so busy at work, and because I was finishing A Little Life. it was a massive book and took me about a week to finish. First off I’m gonna be reviewing A Little Life and probably tomorrow I’ll post an event recap and author interview. So let’s dive in my review for now. 🙂
I was about 1/4 of the way in when I attended the book signing, and there were spoilers so I found out what was gonna happen at the end, yet I still read on cause the book was very heavy on character thoughts. There would be several pages of a character’s inner monologue, or flashbacks providing further background on the characters.
I’m just gonna throw this out there, before I continue on with the review. This book does talk about sensitive subjects. Trigger warning for abuse, rape, and self harm. It does get very dark, reading about the thoughts of the characters, some are implied yet some scenes are very graphic. I found myself a few times closing the book just to breathe and take in the intensity of the scene.
So the story focuses on four characters: JB, Malcolm, Jude and Willem, following their lives as they go through adulthood. Willem is an actor, an optimist, probably the group’s golden boy. Jude is the quiet mysterious friend who has a really dark past. JB is the loud and snarky artist, who likes documenting his friends’ lives. Malcolm is the architect, who loves creating. The story documents their relationships, pains, joys, successes, failures and challenges they go through. At first I thought the book to be slow paced, that the first two parts were a bit monotonous without any actual significance happening, but it provides backstories, it lets you get into the head and hearts of the characters, I guess it makes you get invested in them first, before diving in to the heavy stuff.
The character I could find most relatable to was JB, strangely, and not just because that we’re both in the arts. It’s because I feel like I’m still at that stage in my life where I’m really lost, and that life has been passing by, with everyone else around me rising to the top and things actually happening for them, and that I’m just here, suspended in limbo, which were the thoughts running through his mind in the third part of the story.
Of the four, Jude is clearly the most dark. His story slowly unfolds, bit by bit, as if it is Jude himself is giving the readers time to breathe before he unleashes another monster from his past. The book depicts pain, abuse and depression in a very raw form. It does seem to be a bit over the top to the point of it not being very believable in terms of tragedy, but these things do happen to people. At one point, I found myself even relating to Jude’s train of thought, realizing that at some point in the past I had indeed felt that way. I was so sad for what happened to Jude, how could one person endure so much? What has he ever done to experience tragedy after tragedy?
One little thing I didn’t like about this though, was how it jumped from one time frame to another without it really being clear. At first it’s also confusing who was narrating since there wasn’t much distinction between the narration voices. I literally had to read a few paragraphs, or wait for a name to be mentioned to realize whose POV it was.
I also love the other characters too, Harold, Andy, Julia, Lucien, Richard, The Henry Youngs. I loved how they were proof that even if you’ve experienced a lot of awful stuff in your life, there are still people who could love you and care and try to prove it everyday. They’re people who never gave up on Jude, never left even though Jude had a tendency to push them away and be secretive.
Overall, I think of it as a very powerful, and very meaningful novel. It is devastating yet beautiful and, I actually just love it, okay? I now get the hype as to why my friends keep on pushing me to read this. It can be very heavy, dragging the readers down a dark rabbit hole where the sun doesn’t shine, but it is an important read.