When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.
I'm going to take a shot at explaining this book and why I read it, so please be patient with me this one is not easy. There is no sunshine and light...no this one is filled with heartache and grief and the occasional glimmer of what is frequently a happiness tainted by pain and grief from shadows of a past that won't let go.
Let me start by saying I don't shy away from stories that are dark or don't end well. I don't make a steady diet of them but to be honest some of my favorite books either have or end with a bit of a darker undertone to them. None of them prepared me for what was contained between the covers of 'A Little Life'. I'm not going to try and explain the actual story. I've discovered we often don't read the same book as others do. Oh, it may contain the same words and the same number of pages and even the same pretty picture on the cover but where it differs is how we interpret those words, how they make us feel, the story that we see in our minds eye. So I'll try and share with you the story that Hanya Yanagihara gave to me. For me 'A Little Life' was about friendship, love, forgiveness, the family we are given and the family we make, the ability of the human spirit to endure and to overcome the cruelest of experiences and ultimately the limits of what even the strongest of souls can endure.
Of all the books that I have read and there really are quite a few on that list, 'A Little Life' has definitely proven to be the most emotionally gut wrenching, heart breaking story I have encountered to date and I truly hope that doesn't change ever.
For me the sign of a truly good story is how I feel towards the characters that the author creates. Jude St. Francis found his way into my heart and I don't think he'll be leaving any time soon, I wanted to claim him for my own, to give him the family and the love every child is entitled too, I was thrilled by the friends he was surrounded with as an adult. By Willem who loved him without reservation, Harold & Julia, tried tirelessly to be the parents he should have had, his friend Malcolm, Andy who cared for him as a friend and a doctor even when he resisted and so many other characters I even found myself liking his friend JB, who at one point I was pretty sure I was just going to start thinking of as the douchebag artist.
As much as I loved this book I can honestly say it's not a story that I'll ever be re-reading so I'm glad that I took the time to enjoy it now and didn't rush through it (and I do mean didn't rush I've been working on this one for about 3 months now) and I honestly would not recommend it to just anyone but if you can handle the dark side of life from time to time in your reading and an HEA or even a HFN isn't required than I definitely suggest checking this book out.
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Reading gives us someplace to go, when we have to stay where we are. (Mason Cooley)
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