Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Little Life (Hanya Yanagihara)

Goodreads says that I began reading Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life on May 18, and I only just finished it on September 7.  That’s almost four months going through the same book.  Besides the fact that it’s a whopping 720 pages, A Little Life seems to be meant to be read slowly.  The subject matter is harsh, the emotions are raw, and the plot points are mostly heartbreaking.  If you’re looking for a light, happy read, steer far clear of this one.

Trying to explain A Little Life in a nutshell is almost impossible.  The book follows the main character, Jude, through his life, and Yanagihara wisely skips time periods to keep the audience wondering about certain things.  How did Jude end up with such debilitating pain in his legs, at times to the point of immobilization?  Why won’t Jude talk about his early life?  Except for a few instances, the reader discovers these reasons almost at the same time as Jude’s friends do, and Yanagihara’s theme of the book becomes very clear.  Despite absolutely horrendous things happening to a person, can he or she go on to live a happy, fulfilled life? 

This is one of the saddest books I’ve ever read, and I was only able to get through about 1% on my Kindle every night.  At times, I wondered why Yanagihara made it so long, but when I was done I realized why – the reader has to come to care about Jude and his friends to make the ending that much more meaningful.