A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, published 2015. Shortlisted (1 of 4) for the 2015 National Book Award, shortlisted (1 of 6) for the 2015 Man Booker Prize and finalist for The 2015 Kirkus Prize For Fiction. Buckle up and prepare for the most challenging, upsetting and profoundly moving book that you may possibly ever read. 721 pages. Brilliantly written with great intelligence.
4 young men meet at a small Massachusets college (Amherst?) and remain life-long friends. They all move to New York after school and enter into their varied professions: Willhelm – an aspiring actor, overly kind, classic good looks; Malcolm – frustrated architect at a prominent firm, all-around good guy; JB – Brooklyn-born painter trying to enter the art world, always quick, sometimes cruel, and Jude –intense prosecutor, charming, secretive and quiet.
The type of friendship they have seems rare among men and even rarer are the authors who write about it. Do men even have the vocabulary to express deep-seated emotions of unconditional love and giving? A Little Life is a transcendent hymn to brotherly love.
It’s dark, it’s graphic, it’s heartbreaking and it will be the read of the year. It leaves a lot of space to ponder: Are there limits to human endurance? Is it okay to finally give up? Is it okay to allow someone to finally give up? What are a physician’s ethical guidelines when treating a friend? Where does medical school fail? Will we actively support euthanasia?
This read is not for the faint of heart as it deals with childhood sexual abuse, a childhood so horrific that it’s unthinkable. Yanagihara also takes you into the life of a cutter – an addiction that’s impossible to stop. The read is touted as a friendship of 4, but it’s mostly about 1, a very broken 1.
Yanagihara is exceptionally gifted and now thought of as a major American novelist. In the Cool Mona rating system, I award A Little Life 5 margaritas.