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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.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 he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.
I love to read. That's obvious. But the reason I love to read is because once in a while, out of the blue, a book comes around that takes you by surprise. That makes you dig deep, infiltrates your darkest thoughts, and cuts you to the core. I live for these rare instances. I devour books to find that gem and let me tell you, A Little Life was that book for me. It is a monster of a book (at over 700 pages) and there's so much you can take before you have to step away. But it won't be long before you run back to it because, even though it hurts, the characters in this Yanagihara's novel become a part of you. I've never read a book with such raw characters, with such complex but simple lives, that represent the very definition of being a human being. There's no sugar coating, no silver lining, no magic cure. And that alone made me love this novel even more.
A Little Life takes place during a very large time span, which is incredibly well done. It had the potential of not translating well or of dragging for too long but it doesn't. I loved that I got to take my time with these characters, that new aspects of their personalities were peeled back slowly, and that their demons revealed themselves at a natural pace. The relationship between the four friends is so complicated and not always perfect because...isn't that life? Relationships evolve and this novel captures this beautifully.
I wouldn't change a single word in this book. In fact, I would fight anyone in order to preserve this story until the end of time. Even though I don't have time to reread such a large novel, this story is so dear to my heart that I cannot wait to get lost in it again. If that's not commitment right there then I don't know what is.