A Little Life is a profound book about friends —the family you choose. Four young men move to New York City shortly after attending college together. Although the lives they lead are drastically different, they are connected by their weekly outings, drinks, and having to make ends meet while living in the city on starting wages, right out of college. As a reader, you are compelled by the complexities of the four friends’ relationships. The group is made up of hopeful actor Willem, who is trying make ends meet, Malcom who is a New York native, born to a wealthy family and lives on the Upper East Side, JB the artist and Jude, the genius who also comes from a traumatizing past.
As the book unfolds, Yanagihara zooms in on the tragedies of Jude’s past. It comes to light that he was thrown in a dumpster as an infant and was raised in a monastery, where he suffered sexual abuse and physical trauma that resulted in long term mental health issues and habitual self-harm. Complex in nature, Jude is a lawyer, a mathematician, and the friend that the others know the least about. As his story comes to the surface, they begin to understand the depth of his life, how he has deeply impacted them, and also how he thinks of his life. One of the most compelling quotes in the novel is,
“It assumes that if you have a conceptual thing named x it must always be equivalent to itself, that it has a uniqueness about it, that it is in possession of something so irreducible that we must assume it is absolutely, unchangeably equivalent to itself for all time, that its very elementalness can never be altered. But it is impossible to prove. Not everyone liked the axiom of equality … but he had always appreciated how elusive it was, how the beauty of the equation itself would always be frustrated by the attempts to prove it. It was the kind of axiom that could drive you mad, that could consume you, that could easily become an entire life.”
A Little Life is a moving novel. I was left with only one thought: every person that I love in my life must know that I love them, but more importantly they must know that they are great.
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