I feel like this book was right in front of me in every bookstore for a very long time since it’s publication in 2016 and a few weeks ago I finally read it. It was a frankly traumatic experience for me, this is a very emotional and intense novel that deals with a lot of extremely serious issues and if you have any triggers then you should consider that before you read it. The story follows four young men who went to college together who then all end up living in New York. The novel follows them through most of their adulthood. The main character Jude is haunted and damaged by his past and the plot is an exploration of friendship, love, mental health and how our past shapes and affects us. A Little Life is a long novel but I read it pretty quickly, the story sucks you in and I cared about the characters almost immediately. Yanagihara’s writing is eloquent and emotional with a sadness running through the whole book.
“There were times when the pressure to achieve happiness felt almost oppressive, as if happiness were something everyone should and could attain, and that any sort of compromise in it’s pursuit was somehow your fault.”
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
The above quote is one of the most memorable for me from the novel, it explains perfectly that feeling of exhaustion that can come with the constant struggle to achieve happiness and A Little Life is in many ways a story about that struggle. It is not an easy book to read and I don’t know if I can ever read it again because of how devastated I was by the end of the book. I kept hoping and hoping for a happy ending but in this book, like in life, that did not happen. This is not to say that it is not an incredibly important and worthwhile novel that I believe will give anyone reading it a sense of how much pain from our past can define us for our entire lives and how one the actions of others can alter us completely.