A friend recommended this book to me a couple of weeks ago. She hesitated to do so because the content was … well, a little bit tough. I immediately went to Amazon and ordered the book. I crave intense subject matter in my books and movies. She told me she cried during reading the book. I told her I needed to feel that emotion reading a book again. It’s been too long. I looked forward to reading A Little Life.
From the book cover:
A Little Life follows four college classmates — broke, adrift, and buoyed with their friendship and ambition — as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune. While their relationships, which are tinged by addiction, success, and pride, deepen over the decades, the men are held together by their devotion to the brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a man scarred by an unspeakable childhood trauma. A hymn to brotherly bonds and a masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Hanya Yanagihara’s stunning novel is about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves.
The book came. I dove in. It’s a big one at over 800 pages. This is no small commitment, one made the harder by the fact that the first 120 pages are a complete mess. At least that’s how I felt. Absent my friend’s recommendation and the promise of intensity and human horror, I may have given up. But it was close. And somewhere between page 120 and page 150, the story started to click. The narrative got a little cleaner, a little more straight forward, and it pulled me along. It is one of those books that I needed to finish, that I couldn’t stop thinking about in the moments and hours when I wasn’t reading it.
This is not a story for the faint of heart. As I wrote that last sentence, I thought of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The stories are completely different. But they also are similar in the unstinting honesty in which they deal with absolutely brutal events. The Road, with its simple, spare depiction of the fundamental horror of trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic word. A Little Life, with an epic portrayal, that feels almost never-ending, of the horrors humans can inflict on others and the scars that sear themselves into the souls of the victims.
I cried at one point in the story. Not when my friend did towards the end. But early on, in a moment of unbridled happiness for Jude.
If you’re looking for something to read and do not have issues with searing, brutal depictions of what people do in abusive relationships (and I don’t want to share more because, well, you know, you have to discover the details by reading the book), I recommend A Little Life. It’s a pretty stunning work. I have this feeling Jude and the story of him and his friends will stay with me a long time and that I’ll come back and read this book every now and then.