Every once in awhile a book crosses my path that leaves me yearning for more and unable to fully articulate my feelings. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is that book. At over 700 pages, this book sat on my shelves and intimidated me every time I glanced it's way. Don't let the size scare you away because this is an incredible character driven novel that delves into the highs and lows that make up a life, and all the unforgettable forgettable moments inbetween.
A Little Life follows the lives of four friends who meet in college and reside in New York City. Jude, Willem, Malcolm and JB could not have come from more different lives, yet forged a friendship with each other that progresses and, at times, deteriorates throughout the years. Pensive and thoughtful Jude is a lawyer, with a mysterious childhood that he keeps close to the chest. Willem is an aspiring actor with a kind disposition and magnetic personality. Malcolm is a studious architect who came from a privileged upbringing. While JB is an eclectic artist who is always surrounded by people who love him or his work.
A Little Life is simply a story about these four men's lives, but no life is simple. The complexities that Yanagihara weaves into her storytelling is truly magical and thought provoking. The friends revolve around Jude, which created an interesting dynamic. Jude came into their lives at the age of 16, but no one knows what happened to him before that. The story unfolds and peels away at Jude's layers, unearthing his tormented and abusive childhood. This book is heartbreaking in all the right ways. Parts of Jude's story were incredibly hard to read, especially the stories of his childhood. As a mother of two young boys, I could not help but think of them when I read Jude's past and my heart broke for him.
I loved this book. Period! I wish I had not waited so long to read it because it is truly a modern day masterpiece. If you are a fan of character driven novels, such as The Goldfinch and The Heart's Invisible Furies, you will love A Little Life. I fell in love with these characters (Jude and Willem will stay with me forever) and cannot stop thinking about the complexities of this book and it's characters. This book gets all the stars for me and is added to my all time favorite books list. Below is one of my favorite quotes from A Little Life (though, it was hard to pick just one):
"It was precisely these scenes he missed the most from his own life with Willem, the forgettable, in-between moments in which nothing seemed to be happening but whose absence was singularly unfillable."
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara