Book Notes: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

I finished it this morning. 720 pages over 12 days; what a ride to say the least. Here are my initial thoughts.

Frustration. Anger. Hope. Admiration. Sadness. Joy. Hatred. Fear. Love. Hopelessness. Apathy. Emptiness. Humiliation. Longing. Shock. Disgust. Pride. Sorrow. Surrender. Fatigue. Lethargy. Exhaustion. Pity. Anxiety. Dread. Disbelief. Irritation. Rage. Devastation. Despair. Gratitude. Relief. These are the myriad of emotions – all layered upon one another, interchanging, some melding together at once to produce something entirely new – that I felt, that I could name, while reading A Little Life. There are others which I do not yet know the words for: an aching longing for closure, recurrent descent into a nameless and empty void, a feeling of wanting the story to end but still needing it to persist.

Prior to reading A Little Life, I thought that the most profound emotional merry-go-round that I had been on via literature, thus far, had been The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.  What distinguishes the two stories, however, is hope – a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew from the start of A Little Life that there would be no light, just tunnel. I knew from the cadence of the internal monologues, from the tone of the writing, from knowing myself as a human being. Yet, as we humans do, I hoped. I hoped and hoped and hoped. Maybe – I said. It may still be possible. Wishful thinking.

I can usually recommend my favorite sad books and movies to people because at the end I know that there is some semblance of respite, followed by dreams being fulfilled and hope (a word that has become so fickle and near meaningless now), something uplifting at the end. Overall, I’m still piecing together what the purpose of this book was, other than the portrayal of pure and unshakable despair. There’s something here, underneath the rubble, but it’s hard for me to articulate right now. Maybe because it’s all still very fresh in my mind – the loss, the heartache, the exhaustion. But I do have a feeling that as I continue to move along through life, the meaning will reveal itself.

Here are some thoughts that I had while reading:

  • Why am I still reading this book?
  • When will this end?
  • How many times can one cry in one book?
  • This chapter is called “The Happy Years”????? (while sobbing reading through the chapter)
  • What is the point of life if human beings can be so vile?
  • Okay so it’s just a continuous passage of tears now.

Source: Goodreads

⚠️ Read this book at your own risk ⚠️

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.

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