A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Published by Doubleday on March 10, 2015
Genres: [Adult] Literary Fiction, Contemporary
Format: Audiobook –> Hardcover
Source: Audible –> Purchased
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5 Stars, Completed January 13, 2016
– SPOILER free –
How do I even begin?
If you’ve read other reviews where readers said they enjoyed this book those reviewers are absolutely mad. This book intrigued, consumed, impressed, stunned, humbled, and perhaps even destroyed me, but it’s a stretch to say that I enjoyed it. A Little Life is the most depressingly bleak and disturbing book I have ever read. It’s one that leaves you at a loss for words, makes you sit there for a while thinking about what you’ve just read, and stimulates you to cry upon your awareness that this book, though fiction, has very real, nonfiction themes attached to it.
Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life is an alternating present and past reflection of the lives of four friends that graduate from a prestigious New England college from their mid-twenties into their fifties. There is handsome Willem, a struggling actor hoping to make it big someday; JB, a confident and sometimes callous painter wanting entry to the distinctive art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a recognized firm; and brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a talented litigator only intimidating in court. Each yearn for their breakthrough into society and discovery of their place in life. It seems that early on, Jude is the only one that has settled into a successful, adult lifestyle. It’s also evident that he’s the centerpiece that anchors their friendship, but as the readers read and our cast ages, readers learn how Jude increasingly becomes a broken man unable to overcome the unspeakable trauma his mind and body has endured. Will love and friendship heal him or will he forever be haunted by these scars and demons of the past?
I could spend days discussing this book and it’s heartbreakingly beautiful qualities, from the quintessential flawed characters, captivating writing, LGBTQ+ and ethnic diversity mentions, tasteful musical and art influences, to the New York City backdrop, but all of this would be meaningless to go into detail unless you’ve read this yourself. (Please message me if you have and would like to discuss it. I need a friend to vent my fictional woes!) So instead I’d like to focus on the key points that made this book so meaningful to me.