I feel ill equipped to discuss a book so artfully written and endlessly moving as Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. I loved it so much I came to feel the audiobook, while well spoken, wasn’t giving me the full experience. I pressed pause and picked up the printed version instead.
At it’s heart, A Little Life is the story of four friends who move to New York City after college. There is JB the painter, Malcolm the architect, Willem the actor, and Jude. Kindhearted and fragile, Jude is a mystery to his friends and to the reader. He’s an orphan with an unexplained limp and a past in shadow. He’s loved deeply by those around him yet never feels safe. In the end the book is really Jude’s story. You’ll wish deeply that he had a happier one.
A Little Life so accurately describes growing into adulthood with the city as your backdrop. How you inevitably move from joyous naiveté to wry cynicism but, if you’re lucky, never loose your sense wonder at the unending surprises New York has in store. I saw glimmers of myself and my own New York friendships in every word. It made me wistful for the frenetic loft parties and midnight cheap dinners that defined my 20s and grateful for the friends who stuck around for it all.
WARNING: A Little Life is INTENSELY SAD. The characters become so real and important you will rejoice in their happiness and weep at their hardships. Ugly cries. Lots of them. Prepare yourself.
Who’s read A Little Life? Are you intimidated by it’s 720 pages? Who’s up for a trip to Lispenard Street?
To end, one of my favorite quotes from A Little Life:
“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.”
― Hanya Yanagihara,