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Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize
Long-listed for the National Book Award for Fiction
Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the 21st century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow, improbably, breaks through into the light.
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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.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.
In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.
Cover photograph by The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Angela on 10-17-15
I had to call in SAD to work
Any additional comments?
I was probably a quarter of the way into the novel before I texted my book buddy: "It's called A Little Life and you have to read it right this minute. I don't even understand why it's so unbearable and so beautiful." By the time I had a quarter of the novel left, I was walking around Walgreen's, to buy makeup to repair my cry-face, and sobbing.
This is not just a manipulative tearjerker. This is a genuine falling in love and mourning for and with the characters. I don't know if I am more in love with Jude or Willem--or perhaps with the love they have for each other.
This novel unfurls with a steady, patient, pace as the characters grow and change and, ostensibly, grow up. The depth of it is rather like John Irving, but without the width of the (often pointless) subplots. The author's widening and narrowing focus, however, is incomparable; I've not ever experienced the controlled examination of character, then whole world/context/relationship/effect. I'm not sure it's even nameable. Maybe something like Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, with the individual interpretations of self within the shared travesty.
A word about St. Jude. He sprang, fully formed, from Yanagihara's head--armed with his razor and armor of silence, and just as surely the child of an eater-of-innocence and Wisdom itself. The reader becomes as protective of Jude as everyone else, and when he is called "crazy" or "sick," you have to know it's true, but everything in you objects, even while you hope for his healing, or his willingness to heal.
In the living (beyond the merely reading) of this novel, I had to constantly construct and reconstruct my understanding of Jude, of Willem, my reactions, and therefore myself. In the end, I had to update my definition of love, of romantic love, of friendship, of parenthood, of selfishness/selflessness, and the meaning of one little life. This is the reason one reads, and the reason one writes.
271 of 284 people found this review helpful
By Doug - Audible on 10-12-15
Brutal, But Beautiful
I read an article in which the author compared the experience of writing this book to a "fever dream" - and that's actually similar to how I felt while reading it. Yanagihara's prose is so beautifully written, her characters so well-drawn, that I would go hours absorbed in her work, experiencing that heady feeling that only great fiction can induce. Yes, there are dark passages; scenes that will break your heart and make you angry. But there are also moments in this book that made me think deeply about the nature of friendship and love, forgiveness and recovery, and what it means to actually share your life - your past, your pain, your aspirations, your joy - with those you love. And while there's a brutality to A Little Life - a raw quality that often left me feeling as exposed as its characters - there was something in Yanagihara's writing that was wondrous; something that made me appreciate my own little life.
241 of 254 people found this review helpful