"My life, he will think, my life."
2015 is the year I read one of the best books I have ever read in my adulthood, my entire life for that matter. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara has stayed on in my heart and mind months after reading it, and as such I find it fitting that I dedicate a post to it.
Call this an open letter to the novel and to the author, a shrine to my fervent passion for what it has made me feel. To anyone who stumbles upon this post, please give this a go. It might not be for everyone, but trust me that this book will call out to every part of you that is human. I hope my review will convince you.
Dear Comrade. There is the life as you know it, or a life as others see it; a life you have heard of but can never fathom, perhaps the life you think only you deserve. There is a loved life to live, a hated life to leave behind, or a hopeful life to begin anew. There is the life had before reading this novel, and a life to contemplate after "A Little Life".
Add my fervent consent to the one opinion that is of consensus for this book: I've been broken, "A Little Life" broke me. I have never cried as much reading anything prior as I did reading this. It started, first, with an unsettling and uneasy melancholy, then to some surprising but welcome tears of joy, which only transitioned, or rather, abruptly descended into a state of depressive languishment that left a constant glaze of tears over my eyes. By the end of it, I was a whimpering, wheezing mess, with wetness down my cheeks I had no control over. It is not the tears that mark how tremendous this book is for me though, but the fact that I was emotionally attached as much as I was mindfully invested in this rollercoaster ride we call Jude's life. I reacted and tried rationalizing every detail at every step of the way: I was, in essence, living my life alongside these fully-fleshed characters in their time such that I feel like I've grown with them into adulthood and been privy to the highs and many lows of their collective being. I have never believed in a book that can change, truly change, someone's life, however, "A Little Life" might now be the closest to something that has profoundly impacted me in a way I cannot and will not deny, one that will have repercussions on my outlook on life.
"Things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully."
With each layer peeled back, there is a raw emotional depth that exposes itself time and time again. It is a very cyclical narrative because of the recurring nature of its sorrows, still, there is always something that crashes down hard on you like a wave. "A Little Life" isn't a book that you can just take lightly on surface level; it challenges you to dig deep into your heart and mind. The fundamental question of 'how do you survive the complexities of life?' is put forth and dissected in full here. Indeed, no matter which way you cut it, the past is always there to haunt us regardless of how little or big that horror is. Yet, even through the tough subject matters, there is the love of a tight-knit group of friends and family, and the hope that shimmers amongst them all that there will come a day that it gets better. But if it doesn't, then what?
"You don't understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are - not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving - and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad - or good - it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well."
Hanya Yanagihara. Thank you for your exquisitely powerful prose (my copy is marked with many folded pages). Thank you for capturing humanity in its best and worst forms, and all its beauty and ugliness, the successes and failures, that is part and parcel of the delicate but also enduring strength of the human spirit. Thank you for Jude St. Francis, whom I feel like I know as a dear, dear friend, a comrade, and a brother of mine. Thank you for putting a life, his life, into meaning that transcends words on paper so that he, and everyone he loves and who loves him, stay on in me eternally. Thank you for "A Little Life", this spectacular 700-page opus that is larger than life.
Stones taught me to fly
Love taught me to lie
Life taught me to die