Book Review: A Little Life

By Wednesday, July 1, 2015 0 Permalink

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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Genre: Contemporary

Plot: “Four classmates from a small college move to New York to make their  own way. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter;  Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.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, is Jude himself, whose mind and body  are 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.”

Review: This book is one of my favorite books of 2015. It’s been a few days since I finished reading it, and I’m still thinking about it. That, to me, is a sign of a really good book. It is just so beautifully written, which is rare in the books that I read. What I mean is that I read books that are entertaining and well written, but they’re not beautiful. Everything about this book is  beautiful, the story, the prose, and especially the characters. This book struck a chord with me, in a way that a book hasn’t done in a while.

OK, let’s get the obvious part about this book out the way, which is it’s dark content. This book deals with abuse in several forms, mainly child abuse. I know some people refuse to read books that deal with this issue, and that’s totally reasonable. I’m just giving you a heads up. To me, the abuse was done tastefully and not overly graphic. If it had been otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have continued reading. While the abuse did make me sad, it was actually the touching moments between the main characters that made me weep. This book did a wonderful job balancing the light and dark in my opinion.

It’s hard to put into words what I really loved about this book, which was the relationship between Jude and Willem. I could only explain it if you’ve every been truly and madly in love with another person. If you’ve never felt that about another person, then I don’t think the relationship between these two characters would make as much sense. My emotional response to this story was centered on this shared connection of loving another person so completely. I know most people wouldn’t consider this book as a love story, but to me that’s exactly what it is. It’s love that friends feel for one another, love that parents feel for their children, and love between partners. Is it a happy love story? No, but it’s realistic in the sense that life is not perfect and neither are the people we love.

Recommendation: Yes, you should have read this book, like yesterday. Have plenty of tissues on hand, and mentally prepare yourself for the emotional journey this book is about to take you on. I would not be surprised if “A Little Life” becomes an instant classic that will be taught in school.

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