DAMMIT, make it stop. I could write 10,000 words on how much this book went directly to the very fabric of my being, and still have another 100,000 words to keep going, but I will try to quickly condense it. If you have ever picked up a book, walked out of a theater, or heard a chilling line in a song and thought 'holy shit- someone finally explained all the deep crevices of complicated emotion that I thought I was isolated in' (dramatic much?) and are both parts in awe and terrified at how that can happen- then A Little Life is the largest form of that in the most unrelated but tragic and beautiful way possible. It echoes almost every type of relationship possible while depicting each scenario in such a unique and poignant way; college friendships, terrible lovers, caring parents, tragic parents, egotistical acquaintances, fate-feeling companions, the list goes on.
From Goodreads.com: 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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.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.
“Sometimes I felt that there was something physical connecting us, a long rope that stretched between Boston and Portland: when she tugged on her end, I felt it on mine. Wherever she went, wherever I went, there it would be, that shining twined string that stretched and pulled but never broke, our every movement reminding us of what we would never have again.”
― Hanya Yanagihara
“Lately, he had been wondering if codependence was such a bad thing. He took pleasure in his friendships, and it didn’t hurt anyone, so who cared if it was codependent or not? And anyway, how was a friendship any more codependent than a relationship? Why was it admirable when you were twenty-seven but creepy when you were thirty-seven? Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified. Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return.”
― Hanya Yanagihara
This was very easily the best book I have ever consumed and while I live in extremes of love and passion for many reads, A Little Life shames all the rest. No really, every single person should read this book- it's so perfectly constructed and I cannot believe it exists. It is the closest depiction of relationships and friends I have experienced, and a beautiful and harsh love letter to living in New York. With books of this size, you almost drown in the characters and typically- there are excerpts that you feel you could live without, but I never experienced the latter- only that I wanted it all to continue.
Don't let the cover fool you (or do, because you will weep at some point) or the 600+ pages intimidate you (one should be so lucky they get to spend that much time with these characters) and dive in. I actually bought it hard covered and signed to start, then repurchased it via Kindle so I could take it with me on the go. It wasn't available in paperback in the winter when I got it- but it is now! On top of my (stronggggg) suggestion of reading it, I oddly suggest reading it via Kindle because its pretty beefy and I found that I gulped it up quicker when it was more transportable. Read it when you are looking for something beautiful to drown in and are wanting to take your time getting to know something- I can PROMISE that you will not regret it.