A Little Life
Both deeply disturbing and inspiringly brilliant, I genuinely do not know whether or not I want to recommend Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life to you. The premise is simple: the story follows a group of four male friends -- JB the artist, Malcom the architect, Wilhem the actor, and Jude the lawyer -- as they navigate their lives post-college in New York. Alternating perspectives, and shifting times, this novel could've been quite (for lack of a better word) basic. Instead, it delves into a tale of abuse and pain. Jude's history is revealed in bits and pieces (savvy readers will see what's coming). There were points where I had to put down the book, feeling queasy from the graphic descriptions. Yet I couldn't stop reading. There is something magnetic about Yanagihara's writings; I felt the same way while reading The People in the Trees, a similarly bleak novel. I want to tell you to read this, I truly do, but what's stopping me is how drained I felt reading. One night before I was falling asleep, I had to scroll through puppy instagrams to try to get the images out of my mind. I think that's definitely the mark of an excellent novel -- you can't get the story out of your mind, and you have a fundamental desire to keep reading -- but the story, in the case of A Little Life, is not one I wanted stuck in my mind. The New Yorker wrote that the book has a "subversive brilliance," and I am inclined to agree with their assessment that Hangiyara "uses the middle-class trappings of naturalistic fiction to deliver an unsettling meditation on sexual abuse, suffering, and the difficulties of recovery" (if you do read A Little Life, go read that piece afterwards). My Grandma had warned me before I read the book that she was moving slowly through it because she had to take breaks due to the subject material. I offer you that same warning: the 700+ novel is not meant for quick consumption. Take it slow, it's worth reading.