I wanted to pick up the A Little Life after reading so many positive reviews on it. I started this book months ago and every time I picked it up, it was so so painful to read but Hanya Yanagihara's writing is so beautiful, I didn't want to stop altogether. I wondered if the 2 years of grief therapy could be easily unraveled by 700+ pages. It wasn't but it was heartbreaking, and crushing. I’ll admit I hated the cover at first. Even the cover was just painful to look at. It’s a man full of anguish. From a stomachache or a broken heart, he is in pain. Now that I’ve finished it, it’s a perfect cover for the book. It’s almost like a warning to the reader- this man’s face is what your heart will feel like if you open it.
I don't think my review on the narrative will really change anyone's mind about picking it up. You either have the heart to read this or you don't. This bildungsroman book follows a group of men from early college years and on. The characters are involved in terrifying abuse of almost every kind and the shame and guilt that grew with them breaks you and you read about the decisions they make based on what terrible circumstances they were put in. I grew to love them, I was angry for them, I wanted to hug them, I cried for them, and I grieved for their pain. Yanahihara writes the worst book I've ever read but at the same time a book that breaks me and reminds how human I am, how kindness goes a long away, how feelings are our worst enemy, and it's a book that will stay with me for a long long time.
The book is filled with post-its, highlights and bent pages. There are so many passages and quotes I love (I shared one here for Mother's Day).
"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 can be dismal around him in return."
"We all say we want our kids to be happy, only happy, and healthy, but we don't want that. We want them to be like we are, or better than we are. We as humans are very unimaginative in that sense. We aren't equipped for the possibility that they might be worse. But I guess that would be asking too much. It must be an evolutionary stopgap- if we were all so specifically, vividly aware of what might go horribly wrong, we would none of us have children at all."
"But being with you is like being in this fantastic landscape[...]you think it's one thing, a forest, and then suddenly it changes, and it's a meadow, or a jungle, or cliffs of ice. And they're all beautiful, but they're strange as well, and you don't have a map, and you don't understand how you got from one terrain to the next so abruptly, and you don't know when the next transition will arrive, and you don't have any of the equipment you need. And so you keep walking through, and trying to adjust as you go, but you don't really know what you're doing."
It's a book I would recommend but with caution. Buy it here.