|A Little Life
"The eleventh apartment had only one closet, but it did have a sliding glass door that opened onto a small balcony, from which he could see a man sitting across the way, outdoors in only a T-shirt and shorts even though it was October, smoking."
Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first 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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.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.
Is it too much to say this book is one of my all time favorites? Ever!? Well too bad! I'm going to stick by this statement. I haven't read a book that made me cry so hard in a LONG time. A Little Life is tragic, emotional, heartbreaking but beautiful, loving and warm at the same time. Right from the start, we are introduced to this close knit group of friends that intertwine in so many ways but all the lines end with Jude. Jude is the private, quiet but sentimental sweet one. He is also looked out for by the group due to a disability. You don't have to try very hard to love Jude, I guarantee you'll be as head over heals with him as I was within the second/third chapter. Not to say that all the other characters don't have as much to give, because they each have a great personality and story to tell. Malcolm; the ambitious architect, JB; the talented addicted artist, Willem; the theater boy turned famous actor, and Jude; the tortured lawyer. The list of amazing characters doesn't even end there though, we have Harold; the kind old man who mentors Jude and Adam; the overcaring doctor that tends to Jude at whatever day or time is needed.
When I first read the description of this book, I have to admit I did an eye roll... ayep. I'm so OVER the friendship stories that span a lifetime, yes... they speak to me and I can relate to them BUT enough of them already! Boy, I was in for a treat. I had read Yanagihara's first book, "The People in the Trees" and really enjoyed it and if it wasn't for that, I probably would have missed out on this excellent piece of literature. I would like to kiss Yanagihara's feet for this book (and I HATE feet). Some parts of this book had that brilliance that we got to see in her first book, like when Harold drones on and on about law, but ultimately, this dribble of a speech is fascinating. Who would have thunk!? Yanagihara, thank you so much for coming into my life! I need more books, please! Let me gift you with a few glorious parts I had to save for later:
"Fairness is for happy people, for people who have been lucky enough to have lived a life defined more by certainties than by ambiguities."
"His persistent nostalgia depressed him, aged him, and yet he couldn't stop feeling that the most glorious years, the years when everything seemed drawn in fluorescents were gone. Everyone had been so much more entertaining then. What had happened?"
"Relationships never provide you with everything. They provide you with some things... don't you see it's a trap? If you keep trying to find everything, you'll wind up with nothing."
I think what brought me so close to this book and Jude is that I can completely relate to the way he deals with problems (no, not cutting). Those parts that describe memories like hyenas snapping and hungry, clawing at the door, wanting to break free. I know exactly what that is like, and being able to relate to that brought me very close to Jude. In no way is my life even close to being as messed up but I think anyone who knows what suppressing bad memories is like, will be able to relate to this character. Yanagihara can clearly paint a picture of someones life, I can only imagine she knows what suppressing bad memories feels like (there is no way she did it so clearly without that experience). I have SO much more to say but it would go beyond what is acceptable to talk about in a review. I want this book to be a little surprise to everyone... so before you read this, do what I did and roll your eyes and say, "not again!" Trust me, you'll be in for a big surprise!
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