A Little Life

A Little Life

4.3 38
by Hanya Yanagihara
     
 

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ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal • NPR • Vanity FairVogue Minneapolis Star TribuneSt. Louis Post-DispatchThe GuardianO, The Oprah Magazine • Slate •

Overview

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal • NPR • Vanity FairVogue Minneapolis Star TribuneSt. Louis Post-DispatchThe GuardianO, The Oprah Magazine • Slate • Newsday • Buzzfeed • The Economist Newsweek People Kansas City Star • Shelf Awareness • Time Out New YorkHuffington Post • Book Riot • Refinery29 • Bookpage Publishers WeeklyKirkus

WINNER OF THE KIRKUS PRIZE
A MAN BOOKER PRIZE FINALIST
A NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST

A Little Life follows four college classmates—broke, adrift, and buoyed only by 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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Astonishing.” —The Atlantic

“Deeply moving. . . . A wrenching portrait of the enduring grace of friendship.” —NPR
 
“Elemental, irreducible.” —The New Yorker
 
“Hypnotic. . . . An intimate, operatic friendship between four men.” —The Economist
 
 “Capacious and consuming. . . . Immersive.” —The Boston Globe
 
“Beautiful.” —Los Angeles Times
 
“Exquisite. . . . It’s not hyperbole to call this novel a masterwork—if anything that word is simply just too little for it.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Remarkable. . . . An epic study of trauma and friendship written with such intelligence and depth of perception that it will be one of the benchmarks against which all other novels that broach those subjects (and they are legion) will be measured. . . . A Little Life announces [Yanagihara] as a major American novelist.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Utterly gripping. Wonderfully romantic and sometimes harrowing, A Little Life kept me reading late into the night, night after night.” —Edmund White
 
“Spellbinding . . . . An exquisitely written, complex triumph.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
 
“Drawn in extraordinary detail by incantatory prose. . . . Affecting and transcendent.” —The Washington Post

“[A Little Life] lands with a real sense of occasion: the arrival of a major new voice in fiction. . . . Yanagihara’s achievement has less to do with size . . . than with the breadth and depth of its considerable power, which speaks not to the indomitability of the spirit, but to the fragility of the self.” —Vogue

“Exquisite. . . . The book shifts from a generational portrait to something darker and more tender: an examination of the depths of human cruelty, counterbalanced by the restorative powers of friendship.” —The New Yorker

“A book unlike any other. . . . A Little Life asks serious questions about humanism and euthanasia and psychiatry and any number of the partis pris of modern western life. . . . A devastating read that will leave your heart, like the Grinch’s, a few sizes larger.” —The Guardian

“Exceedingly good.” —Newsweek

A Little Life is unlike anything else out there. Over the top, beyond the pale and quite simply unforgettable.” —The Independent

“Piercing. . . . [Yanagihara is] an author with the talent to interrogate the basest and most beautiful extremes of human behaviour with sustained, bruising intensity.” —The Times Literary Supplement

“A brave novel. . . . Impressive and moving.” —Literary Review

“Enthralling and completely immersive. . . . Stunning.” —Daily News

“An extraordinary book. . . . The truths it tells are wrenching, permanent.” —Evening Standard

“A tragic love story. . . . A transformative experience, not soon forgotten.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Arresting. . . . An extraordinary work of fiction by a writer of tremendous insight. . . . Yanagihara has a keen, incisive eye.” —Irish Times

“Epic in scope, riveting on every page.” —Bookforum

“The most ambitious chronicle of the social and emotional lives of gay men to have emerged for many years.” —The Atlantic

“A miracle. . . . Yanagihara’s most impressive trick is the way she glides from scenes filled with . . . terrifying hyenas to moments of epiphany.” —Newsday

“Yanagihara achieves great psychological realism. . . . [A Little Life] seems to levitate out of history, edging towards the mythic or incredible.” —The Spectator

“An American tragedy for our time, a haunting plea for redemption.” —Toronto Star

“Devastating. . . . [A Little Life] has so much richness in it—great big passages of beautiful prose, unforgettable characters, and shrewd insights into art and ambition and friendship and forgiveness.” —Entertainment Weekly

“A touching, eternal, unconventional love story. . . . A hymn to serious, lifelong friendship” —The Financial Times

Publishers Weekly
11/17/2014
Yanagihara follows her 2013 debut novel, The People in the Trees, with an epic American tragedy. The story begins with four college friends moving to New York City to begin their careers: architect Malcolm, artist JB, actor Willem, and lawyer Jude. Early on, their concerns are money and job related as they try to find footholds in their respective fields. Over the course of the book, which spans three decades, we witness their highs and lows as they face addiction, deception, and abuse, and their relationships falter and strengthen. The focus narrows as the story unspools—and really, this is Jude's story. Unlike his friends, who have largely ordinary lives, Jude has a horrific trauma in his past, and his inner demons are central to the story. Throughout the years, Jude struggles to keep his terrible childhood secret and to trust those who love him. He cuts himself and contemplates suicide, even as his career flourishes and his friends support him. This is a novel that values the everyday over the extraordinary, the push and pull of human relationships—and the book's effect is cumulative. There is real pleasure in following characters over such a long period, as they react to setbacks and successes, and, in some cases, change. By the time the characters reach their 50s and the story arrives at its moving conclusion, readers will be attached and find them very hard to forget. (Mar.)
Library Journal
01/01/2015
Yanagihara follows her debut novel, The People in the Trees, with a deceptively simple tale of four male friends, Jude, Willem, Malcolm, and JB, who meet during their college years at Ivy League institutions. The men choose to continue their journeys into adulthood together by relocating jointly to New York. As they sustain their friendships into their fifties, the author delivers tales of their loyalty, love, and support for one another. However, lying beneath the surface is an emotionally disturbing story line about Jude, a highly successful lawyer and the brightest of the four men. The horrors of Jude's victimization during his youth by the brothers of a monastery and his eventual abduction by Brother Luke, a pedophile and pimp, force him to struggle relentlessly with inner demons and a deep-seated distrust of others, with his pain manifested in constant acts of cutting. VERDICT As in her previous novel, Yanagihara fearlessly broaches difficult topics while simultaneously creating an environment that her audience will find caring and sensitive. Not all readers will embrace this work, given its intense subject. However, for those strong of stomach or bold enough to follow the characters' road of friendship, this heartbreaking story certainly won't be easily forgotten.—Shirley Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-12-22
Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives. Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don't share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and "Jude's race was undetermined"—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery. Two of them are straight, one is bisexual, and Jude, whose youth was unspeakably traumatic in a way that's revealed slowly over the course of the book, is gay. There isn't a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn't much plot. There aren't even many markers of what's happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don't see the neighborhood change from gritty artists' enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends' psyches and relationships, and it's utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other's affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life. The phrase "tour de force" could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780804172707
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/26/2016
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
832
Sales rank:
4,993
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

1

The eleventh apartment had only one closet, but it did have a sliding glass door that opened onto a small balcony, from which he could see a man sitting across the way, outdoors in only a T-shirt and shorts even though it was October, smoking. Willem held up a hand in greeting to him, but the man didn’t wave back.

In the bedroom, Jude was accordioning the closet door, opening and shutting it, when Willem came in. “There’s only one closet,” he said.

“That’s okay,” Willem said. “I have nothing to put in it anyway.”

“Neither do I.” They smiled at each other. The agent from the building wandered in after them. “We’ll take it,” Jude told her.

But back at the agent’s office, they were told they couldn’t rent the apartment after all. “Why not?” Jude asked her.

“You don’t make enough to cover six months’ rent, and you don’t have anything in savings,” said the agent, suddenly terse. She had checked their credit and their bank accounts and had at last realized that there was something amiss about two men in their twenties who were not a couple and yet were trying to rent a one-bedroom apartment on a dull (but still expensive) stretch of Twenty-fifth Street. “Do you have anyone who can sign on as your guarantor? A boss? Parents?”

“Our parents are dead,” said Willem, swiftly.

The agent sighed. “Then I suggest you lower your expectations. No one who manages a well-run building is going to rent to candidates with your financial profile.” And then she stood, with an air of finality, and looked pointedly at the door.

When they told JB and Malcolm this, however, they made it into a comedy: the apartment floor became tattooed with mouse droppings, the man across the way had almost exposed himself, the agent was upset because she had been flirting with Willem and he hadn’t reciprocated.

“Who wants to live on Twenty-fifth and Second anyway,” asked JB. They were at Pho Viet Huong in Chinatown, where they met twice a month for dinner. Pho Viet Huong wasn’t very good—the pho was curiously sugary, the lime juice was soapy, and at least one of them got sick after every meal—but they kept coming, both out of habit and necessity. You could get a bowl of soup or a sandwich at Pho Viet Huong for five dollars, or you could get an entrée, which were eight to ten dollars but much larger, so you could save half of it for the next day or for a snack later that night. Only Malcolm never ate the whole of his entrée and never saved the other half either, and when he was finished eating, he put his plate in the center of the table so Willem and JB—who were always hungry—could eat the rest.

“Of course we don’t want to live at Twenty-fifth and Second, JB,” said Willem, patiently, “but we don’t really have a choice. We don’t have any money, remember?”

“I don’t understand why you don’t stay where you are,” said Malcolm, who was now pushing his mushrooms and tofu—he always ordered the same dish: oyster mushrooms and braised tofu in a treacly brown sauce—around his plate, as Willem and JB eyed it.

“Well, I can’t,” Willem said. “Remember?” He had to have explained this to Malcolm a dozen times in the last three months. “Merritt’s boyfriend’s moving in, so I have to move out.”

“But why do you have to move out?”

“Because it’s Merritt’s name on the lease, Malcolm!” said JB.

“Oh,” Malcolm said. He was quiet. He often forgot what he considered inconsequential details, but he also never seemed to mind when people grew impatient with him for forgetting. “Right.” He moved the mushrooms to the center of the table. “But you, Jude—”

“I can’t stay at your place forever, Malcolm. Your parents are going to kill me at some point.”

“My parents love you.”

“That’s nice of you to say. But they won’t if I don’t move out, and soon.”

Malcolm was the only one of the four of them who lived at home, and as JB liked to say, if he had Malcolm’s home, he would live at home too. It wasn’t as if Malcolm’s house was particularly grand—it was, in fact, creaky and ill-kept, and Willem had once gotten a splinter simply by running his hand up its banister—but it was large: a real Upper East Side town house. Malcolm’s sister, Flora, who was three years older than him, had moved out of the basement apartment recently, and Jude had taken her place as a short-term solution: Eventually, Malcolm’s parents would want to reclaim the unit to convert it into offices for his mother’s literary agency, which meant Jude (who was finding the flight of stairs that led down to it too difficult to navigate anyway) had to look for his own apartment.

And it was natural that he would live with Willem; they had been roommates throughout college. In their first year, the four of them had shared a space that consisted of a cinder-blocked common room, where sat their desks and chairs and a couch that JB’s aunts had driven up in a U-Haul, and a second, far tinier room, in which two sets of bunk beds had been placed. This room had been so narrow that Malcolm and Jude, lying in the bottom bunks, could reach out and grab each other’s hands. Malcolm and JB had shared one of the units; Jude and Willem had shared the other.

“It’s blacks versus whites,” JB would say.

“Jude’s not white,” Willem would respond.

“And I’m not black,” Malcolm would add, more to annoy JB than because he believed it.

“Well,” JB said now, pulling the plate of mushrooms toward him with the tines of his fork, “I’d say you could both stay with me, but I think you’d fucking hate it.” JB lived in a massive, filthy loft in Little Italy, full of strange hallways that led to unused, oddly shaped cul-de-sacs and unfinished half rooms, the Sheetrock abandoned mid-construction, which belonged to another person they knew from college. Ezra was an artist, a bad one, but he didn’t need to be good because, as JB liked to remind them, he would never have to work in his entire life. And not only would he never have to work, but his children’s children’s children would never have to work: They could make bad, unsalable, worthless art for generations and they would still be able to buy at whim the best oils they wanted, and impractically large lofts in downtown Manhattan that they could trash with their bad architectural decisions, and when they got sick of the artist’s life—as JB was convinced Ezra someday would—all they would need to do is call their trust officers and be awarded an enormous lump sum of cash of an amount that the four of them (well, maybe not Malcolm) could never dream of seeing in their lifetimes. In the meantime, though, Ezra was a useful person to know, not only because he let JB and a few of his other friends from school stay in his apartment—at any time, there were four or five people burrowing in various corners of the loft—but because he was a good-natured and basically generous person, and liked to throw excessive parties in which copious amounts of food and drugs and alcohol were available for free.

“Hold up,” JB said, putting his chopsticks down. “I just realized—there’s someone at the magazine renting some place for her aunt. Like, just on the verge of Chinatown.”

“How much is it?” asked Willem.

“Probably nothing—she didn’t even know what to ask for it. And she wants someone in there that she knows.”

“Do you think you could put in a good word?”

“Better—I’ll introduce you. Can you come by the office tomorrow?”

Jude sighed. “I won’t be able to get away.” He looked at Willem.

“Don’t worry—I can. What time?”

“Lunchtime, I guess. One?”

“I’ll be there.”

Willem was still hungry, but he let JB eat the rest of the mushrooms. Then they all waited around for a bit; sometimes Malcolm ordered jackfruit ice cream, the one consistently good thing on the menu, ate two bites, and then stopped, and he and JB would finish the rest. But this time he didn’t order the ice cream, and so they asked for the bill so they could study it and divide it to the dollar.

The next day, Willem met JB at his office. JB worked as a receptionist at a small but influential magazine based in SoHo that covered the downtown art scene. This was a strategic job for him; his plan, as he’d explained to Willem one night, was that he’d try to befriend one of the editors there and then convince him to feature him in the magazine. He estimated this taking about six months, which meant he had three more to go.

JB wore a perpetual expression of mild disbelief while at his job, both that he should be working at all and that no one had yet thought to recognize his special genius. He was not a good receptionist. Although the phones rang more or less constantly, he rarely picked them up; when any of them wanted to get through to him (the cell phone reception in the building was inconsistent), they had to follow a special code of ringing twice, hanging up, and then ringing again. And even then he sometimes failed to answer—his hands were busy beneath his desk, combing and plaiting snarls of hair from a black plastic trash bag he kept at his feet.

JB was going through, as he put it, his hair phase. Recently he had decided to take a break from painting in favor of making sculptures from black hair. Each of them had spent an exhausting weekend following JB from barbershop to beauty shop in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan, waiting outside as JB went in to ask the owners for any sweepings or cuttings they might have, and then lugging an increasingly awkward bag of hair down the street after him. His early pieces had included The Mace, a tennis ball that he had de-fuzzed, sliced in half, and filled with sand before coating it in glue and rolling it around and around in a carpet of hair so that the bristles moved like seaweed underwater, and “The Kwotidien,” in which he covered various household items—a stapler; a spatula; a teacup—in pelts of hair. Now he was working on a large-scale project that he refused to discuss with them except in snatches, but it involved the combing out and braiding together of many pieces in order to make one apparently endless rope of frizzing black hair. The previous Friday he had lured them over with the promise of pizza and beer to help him braid, but after many hours of tedious work, it became clear that there was no pizza and beer forthcoming, and they had left, a little irritated but not terribly surprised.

They were all bored with the hair project, although Jude—alone among them—thought that the pieces were lovely and would someday be considered significant. In thanks, JB had given Jude a hair-covered hairbrush, but then had reclaimed the gift when it looked like Ezra’s father’s friend might be interested in buying it (he didn’t, but JB never returned the hairbrush to Jude). The hair project had proved difficult in other ways as well; another evening, when the three of them had somehow been once again conned into going to Little Italy and combing out more hair, Malcolm had commented that the hair stank. Which it did: not of anything distasteful but simply the tangy metallic scent of unwashed scalp. But JB had thrown one of his mounting tantrums, and had called Malcolm a self-hating Negro and an Uncle Tom and a traitor to the race, and Malcolm, who very rarely angered but who angered over accusations like this, had dumped his wine into the nearest bag of hair and gotten up and stamped out. Jude had hurried, the best he could, after Malcolm, and Willem had stayed to handle JB. And although the two of them reconciled the next day, in the end Willem and Jude felt (unfairly, they knew) slightly angrier at Malcolm, since the next weekend they were back in Queens, walking from barbershop to barbershop, trying to replace the bag of hair that he had ruined.

“How’s life on the black planet?” Willem asked JB now.

“Black,” said JB, stuffing the plait he was untangling back into the bag. “Let’s go; I told Annika we’d be there at one thirty.” The phone on his desk began to ring.

“Don’t you want to get that?”

“They’ll call back.”

As they walked downtown, JB complained. So far, he had concentrated most of his seductive energies on a senior editor named Dean, whom they all called DeeAnn. They had been at a party, the three of them, held at one of the junior editor’s parents’ apartment in the Dakota, in which art-hung room bled into art-hung room. As JB talked with his coworkers in the kitchen, Malcolm and Willem had walked through the apartment together (Where had Jude been that night? Working, probably), looking at a series of Edward Burtynskys hanging in the guest bedroom, a suite of water towers by the Bechers mounted in four rows of five over the desk in the den, an enormous Gursky floating above the half bookcases in the library, and, in the master bedroom, an entire wall of Diane Arbuses, covering the space so thoroughly that only a few centimeters of blank wall remained at the top and bottom. They had been admiring a picture of two sweet-faced girls with Down syndrome playing for the camera in their too-tight, too-childish bathing suits, when Dean had approached them. He was a tall man, but he had a small, gophery, pockmarked face that made him appear feral and untrustworthy.

They introduced themselves, explained that they were here because they were JB’s friends. Dean told them that he was one of the senior editors at the magazine, and that he handled all the arts coverage.

“Ah,” Willem said, careful not to look at Malcolm, whom he did not trust not to react. JB had told them that he had targeted the arts editor as his potential mark; this must be him.

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Dean asked them, waving a hand at the Arbuses.

“Never,” Willem said. “I love Diane Arbus.”

Dean stiffened, and his little features seemed to gather themselves into a knot in the center of his little face. “It’s DeeAnn.”

“What?”

“DeeAnn. You pronounce her name ‘DeeAnn.’ ”

They had barely been able to get out of the room without laughing. “DeeAnn!” JB had said later, when they told him the story. “Christ! What a pretentious little shit.”

Meet the Author

Hanya Yanagihara lives in New York City.

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A Little Life: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
fred55 More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book. It is not a light read. Yes, it is very good. Despite the length of this tome, it is a quick read. Do not, however, expect a light read. This book gets into the darkest places, emotionally. The main character is horribly abused and bares the scars (literally and figuratively) to prove it. It I had a complaint, it would that the author seems to go to great lengths to introduce gay characters into the book.Don't get me wrong. I am liberal on the subject. It just seems perfunctory and, at times, out of context. Another thing that I would say is that you have to really pay attention as you read. If you are a skimmer, you may get confused as the author does jump between characters and even times with little or no warning. Finally, if you are looking for a feel-good read, look elsewhere. This is heavy, emotional stuff.  
2bretired More than 1 year ago
Once I began reading A Little Life I was not sure if this was going to be for me - then it absolutely was. I found that I cared deeply for the people I encountered in this wonderful book. It is not an easy story to learn & Ms Yangihara reveals the drama so skillfully that the horrible things that happened caused me to want to protect the characters - not knowing how things would eventually evolve. Jude, Willem & Harold especially will both warm & break your heart (almost at the same time). I cannot recommend this novel enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a huge reader and this book is phenomenal. It is a study of 4 young men in NYC trying to find their way. This book is a heavy read and beautifully written. I will always remember this book and will be sure to read again . Hope author keeps writing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AMAZING AND WONDERFULLY WRITTEN One of the best books i have read in long time. I think about the characters when I am not reading the book. Very well written, almost impossible to put down. Your heart will break a hundred times during this book and you will want  everyone you know to read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some books are a good read but a year later difficult to recall. I just finished "A Little Life". It's too early to tell but I believe this one will stay with me for years to come. There is something about this book that pulls you along and even at 700+ pages I found it hard to put down. One criticism; an omission. How did Jude get from his horrific childhood into college where he begins his journey into adulthood? But he does, and the story of the four friends and the people in their lives is both thought provoking and heartbreaking. It was a world I don' t live in but it rang true and was a beautiful read.
Sebastian1 More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I've ever read.   I have read hundreds of books and this one will stay with me forever.  As a lover of dark emotional fiction, this one was remarkable.  There were may times when I cried, or had to put the book down.  My regret now is that it's over and I need to find another book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a powerful and amazing book! The writing is wonderful. The characters feel very real.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sections of A Little Life are hard to read. But it harder to put it down and stop reading the book. I believe this is a literary masterpiece the people will be discussing for years and years.
BrandieC More than 1 year ago
After the more than 4,000 reviews A Little Life has already received just on Goodreads, I'm not sure there's anything more to say, so, in the spirit of Bullet Journaling, here are my quick thoughts: • Gut-wrenching, so be sure to have a box of Kleenex at hand • Probably would have been better if it had been put on a diet and lost 300 or so pages before publication • Have your highlighter or notebook ready; Hanya Yanagihara can write! • I don't want Jude's life (well, maybe the money), but I would kill to have just one of his friends • On the flip side, makes you think about what kind of friend you are I received a free copy of A Little Life through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an emotional ride...a ride that lets u experience love, care and affection, a ride that will make your heart ache, a ride that you will not easily forget. it was one the most beautiful books i have ever read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I lived and breathed each character. I felt as though I had made 4 new friends. I couldn't put the book down. In the end I felt myself uplifted and very sad. One of the best books about the human spirit I have ever read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was probably the most powerful and emotionly charged book I've ever read. Very difficult to read but so worth it. Had to put the book down multiple times and come back to it for fear of breaking down on an airplane full of passengers. Gut wrenching and beautiful at the same time. This is a book that I will never forget. If you're looking for a feel good book this book is not for you, but if you are looking for a book that will stay with you and make you weap, here you go.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing is stilted and confusing. Took me a while to figure out who all the characters were. And then the story just went nowhere. I'm not one to walk away from a book but just couldn't finish this one. Writing was too annoying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. The writing was truly amazing. I actually started highlighting quotes in here that mean something to me, which is something I've never done before. This book certainly made me feel. But reader beware: it is not a light read. I think I cried for a good 10 minutes after I finished it. But it was worth it to have words make you feel so profoundly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't want to put the book down. I like the way the author writes and it truly holds your attention. Not a light read at all, so if you are looking for a feel good story, do NOT read this one.
Anonymous 3 days ago
This book was wonderful despite its length and subject. Probably one of my favorite books I have read in my lifetime. The characters no matter how dark they may come across or how sad their history is, the reader is able to somewhat to relate to one of their characteristics. Also, the only book that caused me to shed a tear, certainly an emotional roller coaster.
Anonymous 27 days ago
So absolutely and devastatingly heartbreaking and beautiful. Not a light read, but completely worth the time and effort. This one will haunt me for awhile.
Anonymous 5 months ago
I can't remember the last book I read where I had to stop reading because the content was so depressing. 700 pages of emotion!
bookchickdi 6 months ago
A friend of mine, whose taste in books I truly respect, told me I must read Hanya Yanagihara's novel A Little Life. She said it was difficult subject matter, but one of the best books she has read in years. I had the book on my pile forever and it got such great reviews, but I kept putting off reading it. Was I afraid I wouldn't like as much as everyone else? Was it because it is 800 pages long? Last week, I decided to tackle it. A Little Life tells the story of four college friends- Malcolm, who comes from a well-to-do family and becomes an architect, JB, an artist raised by his immigrant mother and aunt, Willem, an orphan from the midwest who had a brother who died at a young age, and Jude, a lawyer who was in an a terrible car accident as a youth and was left with lifelong injuries and crippling pain, and who has no family. The story follows the men as they go through life, with their successes and failures, their loves and losses. But mostly it is about Jude. Slowly we discover that Jude was abandoned as a baby and raised in a religious community of brothers. He was treated cruelly by some of the brothers, but found what he hoped to be a savior in Brother Luke. Jude's life as a young boy and young man was one devastation and degradation after another. He told no one what exactly had happened to him, although he came close to telling his social worker, a kind woman named Anna. He formed a close bond with his college roommates, but never told anyone his life story. He studied hard, never dated anyone and became a very successful lawyer. The story weaves back and forth in time, which might be confusing to readers in the hands of a lesser writer, but Yanagihara handles it beautifully. The thing that strikes me most about this stunning novel is the struggle between good and true evil in the world. Jude saw the worst of humanity and it scarred him both physically and emotionally for life. But he also saw the goodness of people. Willem, JB and Malcolm were lifelong friends and for the most part, were there for him when he needed them most. Anna the social worker, his professor Harold and Harold's wife, and Andy, a doctor who took incredible care of Jude's many physical ailments but couldn't get through to him emotionally, all loved and cared for Jude, even if they didn't completely understand him. A good novel creates empathy in the reader for its characters and A Little Life does that very well. Jude is an unforgettable character, one that the reader roots for and hopes that he can overcome the horrors of his young life. If you can't feel for Jude, you are simply not human. And if you ever doubted the resiliency of the human spirit, Jude will allay those doubts. I don't generally like to read books where characters suffer abuse, and A Little Life truly gutted me. I sobbed through some of it and audibly gasped a few times. Even now, a week after reading it, my eyes fill with tears for Jude and all he suffered. A Little Life is a towering achievement, and it rightly deserved all the praise it earned last year (it made many best-of lists). I give it my highest recommendation. It is one of the best books I have read in many years, my friend was right.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Well written, of course, but I just couldn't bring myself to care one bit for the characters in this story of self-absorbed, troubled, people and couldn't get past the first 150 pages without thinking, 'yada, yada, yada... life sucks. whatever' and found myself just skimming it because it was just unrelentingly depressing.
Anonymous 11 months ago
navidad_thelamour More than 1 year ago
First of all, let me say that A Little Life was exactly what I’ve been looking for, hence the category that it’s been assigned to. This novel was so rich in raw, uninhibited emotion, in the true unveiling of life’s effervescence, horrors and humanity, that I didn’t feel that I was trudging through a thick read—though, believe me, it’s thick!—I felt that I was on a 40-year Hajj with these characters, a journey that, like real life, takes you over lofty and decadent highs then drags you through trough-like lows. It was the lows in A Little Life that made me literally cringe and turn away, re-read at times and stop reading at others just long enough to question what really is humanity? The theme of lifelong friendship is obviously central to the novel, and I loved that the four focal characters were all male. To get the male perspective on contemporary brotherhood and solidarity was a breath of fresh air; I hardly ever get to experience a literary piece from the viewpoint of modern-day (non-white) men, so if that appeals to you, then this read will be a real treat. Likewise, on that note, I was greatly impressed with the way that Yanagihara handled race in this work, because she flipped the stereotype completely on its head. I remember a feeling of unanticipated surprise, of true and pure admiration of the author’s hand and voice for flipping the script on the typical literary formula. A Little Life was brilliant in the way that it portrayed the capriciousness and uncertainty of college life through middle-age: the discovery and exploration of their sexuality, life goals, insecurities and the precariousness of their own self-images and the pursuit—often slow and unsure—of their own personal ambitions and aspirations. It all rang so true, so genuine. “These were days of self-fullment, where settling for something that was not quite your first choice of a life seemed weak-willed and ignoble…surrendering to what seemed to be your fate had changed from being dignified to being a sign of your own cowardice. There were times when the pressure to achieve happiness felt almost oppressive, as if happiness were something that everyone should and could attain, and that any sort of compromise in its pursuit was somehow your fault.” Yanagihara’s exploration of religion (Ambition and atheism…only here did you have to apologize for having faith in something other than yourself) and race (Race has always been a challenge for Malcolm, but their sophomore year, he hit upon what he considered a brilliant cop-out: he wasn’t black’ he was post-black…unfortunately, no one was convinced by this explanation, least of all JB, whom Malcom had begun to think of as not so much black but pre-black, as if blackness, like nirvana, was an idealized state that he was constantly striving to erupt into) was modern, realistic and enlightened. This work was full of eloquent, thoughtful and introspective narrative prose, but at the same time, Yanagihara did not hesitate to push the reader beyond their comfort level. Her descriptions of abuse and cruelty, suffering, addiction, fear, and the toll these all take on the human psyche—the way that they impact the human experience—were so vivid, so intensely thought-provoking and emotive. However, I must admit that I did take a few issues with this one. For one, I was disappointed to not see... To see the rest of this review go to The Navi Review (www.thenavireview.com) or follow the blog on Twitter @thenavireview
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The main character will be with you forever after you read this book, as will his partner and his parents. Indescribably deep and beautiful. Full of heartbreak, full of despair, full of love. At times you want to love, cover and protect him, and at times you want to shake him until he understands how loved he is, and what a wonderful person he is, and that he is not what his past told him he was. Read it. Stick with it. You won't regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't decide if I loved it or hated it as I read it. Then I realized THIS is the feeling a book should bring about.
OBXreaderNC More than 1 year ago
I can't stop thinking about this book. Couldn't put it down and it is 700 pages. She is an amazing writer. I loved all the characters. It is definitely dark and disturbing but a most compelling read. I would rank it in my top 10 of all time. Different from any book I have ever read.