A Little Life
By Hanya Yanagihara
Doubleday March 2015
From the library
Four best friends move to New York City to pursue their dreams. Willem is an actor surprised by his success, JB is an artist looking for his big break, Malcolm is an architect making his way up the corporate ladder, and Jude is a lawyer with a dark past. As the years pass, the friends become closer and are pulled apart by outside forces and their own decisions. The friends find their greatest challenge in Jude, whose past continues to threaten to demolish a promising future and every bond that he creates.
A Little Life revolves around commitments that we make to other people. Willem, JB, Jude, and Malcolm have no bonds of family or marriage to keep them in the lives of the others. Readers also meet the other people who bring the friends into their lives and refuse to let go. There is something wonderful about reading about friends in a literary culture that is so often consumed with romantic love.
The characters, and ultimately the readers, must grapple with how far you can push someone you love. Jude is notoriously silent about his past and his current struggles. The people who love him respect his limits until they can't ignore them anymore and must make tough choices to save their friend from his demons.
It's easy for us to hope in our reading and in reality that someone meets a challenge and is able to overcome it. But that's not always real life. In the case of Jude, it's a constant one step forward and two steps back. At times, you may wonder how much more the characters and the reader can take. But continuing to immerse yourself in this dark, painful story is an immensely rewarding experience.
This book is receiving acclaim all over the place and it is well-deserved. A Little Life is heartbreaking and devastating in the way that only beautifully crafted books can be. You will fall hard for Jude and his friends and hope against hope that there can be a happy ending for this bunch.