on March 10th 2015
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JB, Malcolm, Willem and Jude first meet at a small college in Massachusetts, where Jude begins to stand out from the group due to his mysterious background. Though their careers send them in different directions, the four friends continuously find themselves centered in New York City, where Jude works to establish himself as a powerful attorney. But over the course of several decades, the trauma from Jude’s past works its way into his present and threatens to consume the life and love he desperately hopes to keep.
I wish I had the words for a close examination of characters or a break down of the techniques Hanya Yanagihara uses throughout her new novel, but I read it in a fever dream of four days that I’m both reeling from and wishing I could relive several months later. Though I hope to pick it up with a more critical eye in the future, I can’t imagine there’s a better way to read A Little Life for the first time than fully giving in to the experience when it begins to take hold.
There are many things that make this a difficult book to review, as pieces fall into place delicately throughout the novel’s 700 pages and slowly reveal more about each of Yanagihara’s remarkably real characters. Saying too much in a review risks touching on individual elements that are part of A Little Life‘s brilliant discovery process and soiling the journey readers take with those characters.
Hanya Yanagihara weaves through countless facets of life and death that will touch readers in different ways and make the experience an incredibly personal one. While it’s certainly not an emotionally easy read, none of the novel’s turns feel planted for the sake of manipulation. Instead, Yanagihara uses the shadows of the lows to shine light on the highs, to remind us how vital love and friendship truly are. In doing this, she creates a bond between the reader and the page unlike anything I’ve ever seen and, however difficult it is to be with them, her characters work their way into our little lives, making it nearly impossible for us to let go.
If you’ve read A Little Life and would like to discuss it with spoilers, you can head over to The Socratic Salon.