Published March 10th, 2015 by Doubleday.
When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever. (Goodreads)
Is there life after this book? At the moment I am quite unsure for two reason. #1 it took me the entire month of June to read and #2 it’s tragically amazing. I’ll be honest and say the shear size alone is daunting to say the least, but I pushed through night after night cringing for these characters and riding the emotional roller coaster it offered its readers. I’d like to compare it to something you can relate to, something to give you a sense of the gravity in which this story sits in your soul. Alas there is nothing. It’s Sex in the City minus women and consensual sex. It’s Friends. Again minus the ladies and without the comedy and humor. Truly there is nothing to compare it to.
A Little Life tells the story of four guys who became friends in college and remain friends in one form or another throughout the remainder of their life. It spans the years from their mid-20’s to early 50’s. It’s as if you’re seeing them through several seasons of a binge worthy show. The writing itself captures the emotions so well I felt them dripping off the page and into my own life. It varies in perspectives and it quite long but never boring. The first half of the book is an exploration into who these guys are and their friendship. In the second half Yanagihara narrows the focus and will blow your mind at the vivid and toxifying details of their lives both before and after college, specifically Jude.
Unfortunately, this is an amazing queer lit book that I can not recommend easily. It has strong trigger warnings for abuse, drugs, physical harm including cutting, rape, food restriction, etc. and they are often discussed in brutal detail. If you’re interested in reading it and believe you can withstand the savagely graphic tendencies I suggest doing a bit of research before blindly hopping into this one. If you do take the plunge the journey is 100% worth it.
You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.