Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Book Review: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Author: Hanya Yanagihara
Enjoyment Rating: *****
Source: Digital Copy
Content Alert: repeated sexual abuse of a child, violence
A couple of nights ago, Ed and I were driving down to the BYU basketball game together, and I started telling him about this fantastic book I was reading. I said something about how it was about a group of friends who met in college, then moved to New York, and how the central character, Jude St. Francis, had suffered horrible abuse as a child, first abandoned at birth, then growing up in a monastery, then when he was taken by one of the monks and used as a prostitute, then finally, when he ran away and met even worse people who damaged him both physically and mentally. But eventually he became successful and found a family and someone with whom he could share his life, and yes, it's true that he refused to talk to anyone about his past and cut himself to deal with the psychic pain, but it really was a fantastic story.
"Wow," Ed said. Remind me not to read that book.
A Little Life is a deep dive into Jude St. Francis's life. His struggles to overcome his past, and the way he never really can see himself as something other than fragile or broken. I don't think it could be classified as anything other than a tragedy, but it's also hopeful in lots of ways. I think it shows that someone whose life is scarred from the beginning and continues to bear those wounds can also have moments, even years, of beauty. It's a difficult book, and a book that is both incredibly detailed yet also feels almost timeless (I never could figure out what year the book started and what year it ended-- it all felt like it took place in the present), and I can see that it wouldn't be something everyone would enjoy, but I found it really moving, and I think I'm a more empathetic person for having known Jude, at least over the course of 700 pages.