A Little Life

A Little Life

by Hanya Yanagihara

Overview: Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazementóand a great gift for its readers.

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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.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 heíll not only be unable to overcomeóbut that will define his life forever.

In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.

Faith Bowers (07/21/17): I actually listened to 26 discs less a few tracks that I could not abide by. I enjoyed most of the book though it is very sad at times and very annoying at times. It is well written and well edited with wonderful characters that will stay with you a long time. I agree with most everything that Debbie mentioned and I would love a book discussion but I don't think my own book club would work through this book.
Rating: ****

Debbie Weiss (01/09/17):This was an extraordinary book, with 832 pages all well-written and captivating. The story follows 4 men who attended college together in Boston through the next 3 decades of their lives in New York City. Each pursues a different profession: Malcom is an architect, JB is an artist, Willem is an actor and Jude is a lawyer. They start out as struggling young adults and evolve into very successful professionals. Each is talented and smart.

This is not an easy book to read. It delves into the relationships among these 4 individuals. We learn about their upbringings, their strengths, their quirks and most of all --- we learn of their weaknesses, which are many. There are very few female characters in the story and the author, who is female, really seems to understand the male psyche. The interrelationships are sincere and intense.

The book ultimately evolves into a study of Jude, the lawyer. He is the one with the most difficult childhood that haunts him all of his life. We struggle through each day with him and his demons. This is not easy and the details of his youth unfold slowly. Sometimes, I just had to put the book down and take a break from the bleak details.

This is the kind of book that you think about a lot once you are done since the character development is so exceptional. I felt like the 4 men were my friends --- and I absolutely cared about them and hoped that life would work out positively for them.
Rating: *****

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