Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Little Life; Hanya Yanagihara

 A Little Life; Hanya  Yanagihara
Doubleday - March - 2015

When I first decided to read this book, I thought that the cover image was a terrible choice, however, after finishing this 700+ pp book over the course of a few weeks, I now think the image is perfect.  It so accurately depicts the emotional pain, physical pain and trauma experienced by the focus character, Jude, from childhood through adulthood. I loved this book. It is by far, the BEST book I've read in years.

A Little Life, is a novel about a 30 year friendship of 4 male college friends. Jean Baptiste (JB) a self-centered artist, Malcolm, an architect, Willem, a kind, caring man and actor, and Jude, a handsome, brilliant man who entered college at 16. He is now a successful, but deeply troubled attorney.  

Nick-named by his friends, Saint Jude, (Patron Saint of lost causes), Jude's friends really know very little about their friend. He keeps his painful childhood to himself. As an adult he is mostly crippled and, oftentimes he must rely on his wheelchair to get around.  He tells his friends he was in a car accident at the age of 15, but there is much more to that story than is initially revealed. Abandoned as an infant, he never knew anything about his parents, he was in and out of group homes, and he even spent years with monks at a monastery. 

Just when Jude felt there was some adult he could trust, his hopes were crushed by some cruel act by someone who he hoped had cared about him. When he thinks that his situation couldn't get any worst, it does.  His first gift ever was at the age of 5, a fossil which he cherished, given to him by Brother Luke, a monk who would later betray him.

It is difficult to say to much more without revealing spoilers -- there are several reviews out there that give away way too many details, which will spoil the reading experience for others. The story is well paced and I was quickly drawn into the story and into Jude's dark world, and his past and present pain and trauma, which is slowly revealed. Even when he is in a happy situation, he can't stop himself from dwelling on the fact he feels so unworthy of any form of happiness.

Although the story was sad, heartbreaking really, the reader will also see that there is much kindness toward Jude by his friends and others who truly cared about him. Willem, who is guardedly allowed to be part of Jude's life. Harold, a former Harvard Law professor, who wants to adopt Jude as his own son, and Andy, a friend and doctor who is there for Jude when he desperately needed someone to help him. 

A Little Life, cuts deep; it's real and gritty, yet beautiful as well. It's a book that examines, the good, the bad and the ugly people and things in life. It forces the reader to think about the uncomfortable things in life, the life long effects of physical, emotional and sexual abuse and trauma.  It makes you wonder whether, even as adults, with supportive individuals ones side, is it ever possible to free oneself from the trauma of the past?  This book is certainly not a good choice for the faint of heart reader -- individuals who shy away from graphic descriptions of abusive situations in various forms.  This is one of those stories that will stick in my mind forever. I am so very happy I read this book, it makes my less than perfect childhood seem almost normal after reading this book. Hanya Yanagihara is a talented individual. In fact, I just started reading her debut novel, The People in the Trees, which I am also enjoying. 

Thanks to John Pitts, VP from Doubleday for providing me with a finished copy of this book.

5/5 stars







21 comments:

  1. People in the Trees is on my must-read list - everyone seems to be recommending it. I wasn't quite sure about A Little Life but it does sound pretty good. I will try to pick it up once I read People in the Trees.

    ReplyDelete
  2. For some reason the cover makes me think of that famous Dust Bowl photo by Dorothea Lange. Since it's the best book you've read in YEARS, I feel like I must get a copy!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I remember reading the intro and wanting to continue. The cover isn't attractive, but your review has me putting this book on TBR list.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Diane, after reading your review, I am very tempted to run out and pick this book up.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I hate the cover. But I have seen some great reviews for this book so I may just pick it up. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've got a copy of this on my reading pile currently - I'll be honest, I almost wet myself laughing at the cover and frequently ask people if they'd like to see the most anguished man alive before showing them the book. However, I am looking forward to reading it and even more so having read your review. It's a pretty weighty tome, but that sounds appropriate given the themes - hope it lives up to the hype!

    ReplyDelete
  7. An excellent review Diane, and added to my reading list. I recently came across Deborah Crombie and am on my second book of hers now. Thanks for the visit and have a great week :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. WOW, 5 stars, now that's impressive!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh man. I know I told you I have to read it but now I really, really have to read it. My library doesn't have a copy... not even my alternate library system. What's up with that?

    ReplyDelete
  10. This has been one of my most anticipated books to read this year, since I first noticed it last December. I'm finally starting it tonight and have no idea where my mind and heart will be when I finish.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I loved this one too - and I agree about the cover image. I actually spent the first part of the book wondering which character it was supposed to be...obviously that became abundantly clear before too long.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great review, Diane! I know I'll be reading this before too much longer.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Seriously? Best book read in years? This makes me want to read it too. I told myself I'd hold off on another gigantic book after The Goldfinch, but I think I'll see if the library has it in audio. I could probably handle another chunkster in audio.

    ReplyDelete
  14. By the way, I love your blog header. Its so refreshing. It makes me want to read in the sun.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great review Diane. I am going to add this to my to read list. Too bad it is so long, but I bet I will fly through it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. The page count scares me, but
    "It is by far, the BEST book I've read in years."
    really makes me want to try it~

    ReplyDelete
  17. Excellent review, Diane. Thank you for keeping it spoiler-free, too. I'm surprised my store doesn't have any in stock, but I'll be sure to order some in tomorrow and will get a copy for myself. You had me at, "It is by far, the BEST book I've read in years."

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wow! I've been hearing great things about this book but the best book you've read in years? That really sells me!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I too feel A Little Life is the best book I've read in years...

    ReplyDelete
  20. I've been going back and forth on whether or not to pick this book up but after reading your thoughts and seeing that you give it five stars I think I'm going to. It sounds like a difficult read but I never shy away from that. I just wanted to hear from someone who's opinion I trust that they liked it before I attempt to delve into a 700 page book.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to visit and double thanks for any comments. If you ask a question in your comments, I will try to reply to it here, or by email if your settings allow me to do so. Thank again for visiting.

(I apologize for the word verification, spammers spoil it for all sadly.)