Living in New York is difficult, but when you have three good friends anything is possible. JB, Malcolm, Jude and Willem try and find happiness in their adult lives, going through incredible highs and equal lows, to find the answer to everything.
I knew going into this that emotions would run high, that the novel attacks difficult subjects without censoring the pain and inner turmoil the characters faced. It is no wonder that this book is often buddy read alongside another reader so there is emotional support for the difficult bits, thank you to Sophie for being my buddy read partner in this one! It was rough.
Yanagihara has come back into recent popularity for completely ruining our emotions and tearing out our hearts in 'A Little Life'. Thorough out the novel there were tears, angry words and desperation, all from me, because I was so invested in these characters (OK, not JB). It is difficult to explain how well Yanagihara wrote the core four without getting into the plot so I'll be as vague as possible. Jude and Willem became the main focus of the novel as it progressed, following them into their adulthood and the relationship developed between themselves and with others around them. The connection between them was written so clearly and organically that it could have easily been a memoir, nothing felt forced or unrealistic when it came to them. Jude, especially, captured my heart, he was the most frustrating character but only because Yanagihara captured what it meant to feel 'damaged' as a human being.
'A Little Life' has been published for quite awhile but the twists of the plot have been kept quiet enough that I was completely shocked when I read them. Sophie was ahead of me by quite some way and she would constantly text "where are you at now?" "Omg just wait👀" as I progressed. Reading with Sophie made it a more enjoyable experience as she took away from the complete despair and sadness I felt from the plot. Yanagihara seems to be the master of the emotional rollercoaster. By intertwining past, present and future events we cannot help but feel connected to the plot as a whole, seeing how much progression each character has made and following their success in life put us on an incredible high, hoping it'll all work out for the best, but what goes up, must come down. By being so engaged with the characters the reader cannot avoid the complete heartache Yanagihara inflicts on us in the last two parts.
Relying on the plot itself to be the 'shock factor' meant I didn't feel fully engaged until about 50-60% of the way in, and for a 700+ page book that caused me to lag behind our daily pages. Once it got going, it was great, but I did find the first 200 pages to simply be character building without much plot, although this really played into Yanagihara's hand when the emotional journey got into full swing it felt slightly tedious to begin with. It did end up being worth it, so I recommend anyone struggling with the first 200 pages to plow on and keep going.
Be prepared to cry in sadness, anger and despair when you pick up 'A Little Life' but it did make me slightly more appreciative of the comfortable life I live and of those around me.