I cried (actually wailed) through the majority of A Little Life. That’s around 700 tear stained pages.
I threw myself into the New York lives of a college friendship circle: JB the outrageous artist, Malcolm the reserved architect, Willem the handsome actor/waiter and the mysterious Jude, cerebral lawyer. I followed them as they tried to make it in the big bad city; a whirl of parties, drugs, ramshackle apartments and temp jobs.
As the novel unfurls, we zoom in on Jude St Francis, his friendships, family, and his past. Emotionally damaged and physically disabled, Jude struggles through life. As do we- there were some parts of this book that were so harrowing that I skimmed over passages or had to put it down.
Critics have called the novel melodramatic or sentimental. Maybe it is- there’s something dramatic, even cinematic about how Yanagihara writes: flashbacks, visual close ups, monologues.
All the characters are also unfeasibly successful, and the cast split into either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But for better or worse, they are now my friends too. And excessive or not, by the end of it I felt like I’d lost someone.
Read: to feel grateful for your life. Or if you’re down for crying. A lot.