A Little Life by Hanya Yanigihara
Reviewed by: Jennifer Chretien, Reference Librarian
I have a confession to make: I do not really like to read books that are nominated for a prize in literary fiction. Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against them and I am pleased if something I read and liked was nominated. It's just that once a book is nominated for a prize it becomes a book I should read in order to be an intellectual and not something that I should read because it's enjoyable. That's a lot of pressure and expectation! I mention this because I didn't read A Little Life until now simply because of the words "Man Booker Prize Short List" on its cover and boy was I wrong! A Little Life is a brilliant work of art and I cannot imagine not having read it now that it entered my life.
It's difficult to describe the plot without giving too much away. 4 boys (JB, Malcolm, Jude, and Willem) meet in college and despite all odds, remain friends for decades afterwards. This is not male "sex and the city" - or at least not entirely. The book's heart lies with Jude who has such a troubled past that he cannot come to terms that he deserves anything good in his "little life".
This is a heartbreaking, glorious, achingly beautiful work that dealt a sucker punch of intense feelings every 50 pages or so. A roller coaster of emotions. Yanigihara strings her reader along with her beautifully written prose and delicately nuanced characters so well that you stay with her at the highest of highs and you are compelled to keep on reading when you are sobbing on the floor. Few authors are capable of this. Fewer authors are able to convey the struggles of life so delicately.
It's a daunting read at 836 pages in softcover but I read it in 2 days. When finished I hated the characters but I also loved them and didn't want to let them go. I never wanted the book to end.
If you loved The Goldfinch and want something that will move you even more, I think you owe it to yourself to read A Little Life but keep tissues and comfort food handy!