Book Worm

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

To be honest I am a bit at a loss for how to start my review of this book . I find myself conflicted on several levels.

It begins innocently enough

The first fifty pages or so of the book start out centering around four young men. A likable set of college buddies who all move to New York city to chase their respective dreams, and somehow all end up successful in their own way. (quite the feat) They all start to fade into the background as the main character begins to emerge.

Jude the introvert of the group meek and mild-mannered.

His harrowing account begins to unfurl in what becomes at times quite honestly, agonizing to read through. To say it’s a hard read is an understatement. At times I found it physically painful to turn the page, so much so I had to read it, in intervals with a much lighter buffer read in between. It is not for the faint of heart because it touches on many disturbing issues. I think a trigger warning is necessary for those coming across this book casually on the shelves of a bookstore as I so innocently did.

  • Self harm
  • Child abuse
  • Rape
  • Molestation
  • Violence

Just to name a few. The very fact that all of this happened to just one person is a little hard to swallow. These things do happen, they are all too real for some and it is important to give them a voice, but I have a hard time reconciling the degree to which Hanya drew out the abuse. And here is where I am torn. The book in it’s entirety is well written, Hanya’s skillful prose keeps you engaged, engulfed, utterly consumed. I kept coming back for more. (this is what a good book should do right?) It’s a testament to Hanya’s mastery of weaving such a sordid delicate story together.

Overall it takes you on quite the ride

By the end of the book, I knew I had just read a good work of literature, but I didn’t feel good about it, if that makes any sense. It left me physically and emotionally drained and the ending did little to offer any hope or redemption. I take issue with what I believe is the central thread throughout the book; That some people are too broken to fix. It’s one I just can’t get behind. There is always hope, always a chance for change as long as we are still breathing. That is an important message within the mental health community. One Hanya in my opinion disregarded.

It’s a book you read once and then try to forget. At least that is what I will try to do.

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