Some books stay with you long after your eyes cross the very last page. The book follows you every step of the way, it becomes your shadow and it sort of haunts you. This was true of A Little Life. This was a heavy dose of reality and what one might go through -in life- sometimes with no absolvement in sight.
Relationships never provide you with everything. They provide you with some things. You take all you want from a person – sexual chemistry, let’s say, or good conversation, or financial support, or intellectual compatibility, or niceness, or loyalty – and you get to pick three of them.
It was not necessarily the book as a whole that haunted me. It was rather the characters, especially their pain. Willem, Jude, JB and Malcolm are still stuck with me. Four classmates move together from Massachusetts college to New York to start a new life, as Yanagihara traces their broken steps and their friendship’s timeline, one clings to each and every character more as the story progresses. I got to follow those four men on four different journeys which intertwine several times throughout the book.
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.
I did not jump into the characters’ lives, Yanagihara introduced them slowly. I was able to delve deep one too many times into each and every character exploring their inner thoughts and getting a front row seat to their turmoil. The characters might have been fleshed out with readers’ pain for all what happened throughout the book. I can say that this book created a raging storm within me.
Yanagihara is unforgiving with the details as she unleashes the characters’ stories, memories and inner thoughts. She captures the nuances of human emotion, sphere and the changes that gradually take place. Yanagihara manages to balance out the atrocities present with the solid friendships and the family bonds, giving the reader a hint of much desired positivity.
Who am I? Who am I?” “You’re Jude St. Francis. You are my oldest, dearest friend. You’re the son of Harold Stein and Julia Altman. You’re the friend of Malcolm Irvine, of Jean-Baptiste Marion, of Richard Goldfarb, of Andy Contractor, of Lucien Voigt, of Citizen van Straaten, of Rhodes Arrowsmith, of Elijah Kozma, of Phaedra de los Santos, of the Henry Youngs. You’re a New Yorker. You live in SoHo. You volunteer for an arts organization; you volunteer for a food kitchen. You’re a swimmer. You’re a baker. You’re a cook. You’re a reader. You have a beautiful voice, though you never sing anymore. You’re an excellent pianist. You’re an art collector. You write me lovely messages when I’m away. You’re patient. You’re generous. You’re the best listener I know. You’re the smartest person I know, in every way. You’re the bravest person I know, in every way. You’re a lawyer. You’re the chair of the litigation department at Rosen Pritchard and Klein. You love your job; you work hard at it. You’re a mathematician. You’re a logician. You’ve tried to teach me, again and again. You were treated horribly. You came out on the other end. You were always you.” “And who are you?” “I’m Willem Ragnarsson. And I will never let you go.”
I cannot talk about the characters without delving into the details. I will always recommend this book with a much needed warning. If you want a read that will fill your heart to the brim and destroy it, I suggest that you delve into this book. While reading this, keep in mind that you are reading a miniature version of life, a little life.
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.