A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is a novel that focuses on the harrowing, painful, and bittersweet moments of four friends in New York. Though, of course, the novel is so much more than the relationships of the friends because it is about their experiences, their pasts that will not leave them, and their desires to build something after they have dealt with a tremendous amount of turmoil. And while, the novel’s other characters, Willem, JB, and Malcolm inhibit and direct the narrative, at its core, the novel is about Jude. Jude’s childhood is devastating, and he has been taken advantage of at every turn of his life by Brother Luke, Dr. Traylor, the counselors, and a countless amount of other men. So devastating, that Jude cuts himself, tries to kill himself, and shuts down around the people he loves.
It is truly a difficult (due to the subject matter) and terribly sad novel to read. Though, it felt that the approach that Yanagihara took with rape, suicide, and violence was well thought out and powerful. It describes the limitless nature of love, the horrors of the world, and what it means to be imperfect. And while it is a larger piece of fiction, the passages were written so smoothly that I found some days I read over a hundred pages, but only felt like I read twenty. Yanagihara expertly crafts language, moments, feelings, prose, and time to create something undeniably life changing. It made me cry, and heart-warmed when Jude finally tells his boyfriend, Willem, about his past in the closet. They sit there, they exist, and they know that there will only be love between them in that moment. This is one of the best novels I’ve read, and I don’t think I can recommend it enough.
Final Rating: 5/5
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Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.