Often when I’m excited to share a book I’ve just read, I have a way of describing it a tad too honest. “It was amazing, it made me cry and I felt like a hollow shell of my former self for weeks”. (Revolutionary Road, man, did that book break me down). And the poor person I’m talking to look like they don’t even know if they should get me medical assistance or just stop listening to anything I say.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is in the same category. It’s about friendship and growing up.
Friendship, companionship: it so often defied logic, so often eluded the deserving, so often settled itself on the odd, the bad, the peculiar, the damaged.
But these were days of self-fulfillment, where settling for something that was not quite your first choice of a life seemed weak-willed and ignoble.
It’s about shame. It’s about not being able to open up. To never let down your guard.
“I thought you were going to tell me you didn’t want to be friends anymore.” “Oh, Jude,” said Julia, and Harold looked perplexed. “Why would you ever think that?” he asked. But he shook his head, unable to explain it to them.
He had decided to believe Caleb, to believe him over us, because Caleb confirmed what he had always thought and always been taught, and it is always easier to believe what you already think than to try to change your mind.
This book was heavy. Most of the negative critique Hanya has gotten argues that she overdoes it – the pain, the misery, the details that paint the picture more vividly than any sane person would ask for. While I agree that the book could have been trimmed down a chunk from its heavy 737 pages, perhaps that is also exactly why I loved it so much. It does it all with extra everything. No holding back.
It’s also one of the most well-written novels I’ve read in the past year.
Now, though, as an almost-forty-eight-year-old, he saw people’s relationships as reflections of their keenest yet most inarticulable desires, their hopes and insecurities taking shape physically, in the form of another person.
It’s not for everyone, but for if you’re up for it, it’s a reading experience that will stay with you for a long time. And it’s not all tears – it made me laugh out loud at times, too. I promise!