BOOK REVIEW | A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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5/5 stars

From the publisher:
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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.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.

My thoughts:
What is happiness but an extravagance…?

I finished A Little Life minutes ago, and am still trying to catch my breath and wipe away the tears. This book pulls you deep into its world, grips you tightly, and finally, relentlessly, lets you go. A beautiful portrait of male friendship, we follow the lives of Jude, JB, Willem, and Malcom from their years after college graduation into middle age. This, however, is Jude’s story. This book explores the darkest dark of humanity, the brutality of life after extreme violence, and the extent of human endurance.

…how hard it is to keep alive someone who doesn’t want to stay alive.

This quote resonated so deeply for me, and brought to light so many questions about what makes life worth living. If someone is in extreme pain, emotionally or physically, why are they meant to hold on? Should they have to? Is their continuation of life only for the comfort of other people? When is it OK to give a loved one permission to leave this world? These are questions that I have spent a lot of time thinking about prior to reading this book, and it was as comforting as it was difficult to contemplate these thoughts as I followed Jude through his life.

This book wasn’t perfect, and certain elements were distracting for me, but I couldn’t possibly give it anything less than 5 stars. I bawled more than once, and the ending was a perfect release. If you’re ready to take this journey, I hope that you will find it a rewarding and challenging endeavour.

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