June 23, 2020

A Little Life

Here’s our take on ‘A Little Life’ a novel  by Hanya Yanagihara:


A Little Life is a 2015 novel written by American novelist Hanya Yanagihara. This 736-page novel is gripping, intoxicating, and sort of despondent in its entirety. I hated the book. I really did. In fact, I am writing this before reading the last chapter, which suspiciously & relatively has less number of pages. Hate- is a strong word. It can actually vary with context. The context in which I ‘hate’ the novel is “Hate- used politely to express one's regret or embarrassment at doing something.” I felt this ‘hate’ after a week into the book. Every so often, I wanted to stop. That seemed like a sane thing to do. But I didn’t. We all have our own set of beliefs that sustains us. Life, for me, was easy. I am one of the privileged. In spite, of my perpetual association with my caste or my past relinquished religion(s), I didn’t face discrimination (or at least I think I didn’t). Thanks to my parents, I do not know what suffering is. But when I read a book like ‘A Little Life’ or simply open my morning paper expecting something horrible; I apathetically stay sad for few minutes or even an hour. Then I carry on with my privileged life. Not that I am cursing myself for being privileged, I can’t help but visualize all kinds of agonizing pain our fellow mortals must endure. Some fail and some show fortitude. But it all happens right in front of us. Our privileged-indifferent life fails to notice them. One of my favorite dialogues from The Da Vinci Code illustrates my point, ‘The Mind Sees What It Chooses To See.’ So when I started this book, I hated that I was never ‘Kind’ or ‘Empathetic’ to people & scenarios that lay outside my comfort zone, I wanted to be better, and this book is meant to be a slap on my attitude. My mere dislike and twitchy-ness, I felt was physical proof of how I dodged and walked away or downplayed similar circumstances all my life. I hate this book for showing me how indifferent I was.

It’s a beautiful book, at times you envy the characters. The novel trails the life of four friends in NY city, USA. JB, Malcolm, Willem, and Jude were friends since they were 16-20. They were dorm-mates. Their relationship dynamic is one of the long-lasting thread in the book, It’s astonishingly sincere. We see how each of them grow up to be, JB- an aspiring artist, Willem- an optimistic & wishful stage actor, Malcolm- a paternally rich- budding architect, and finally there’s Jude, he’s the crux of this novel. Jude St. Francis is a mysterious person. None of his friends know his past, why he had an incomprehensible health issue, why he limps, and even his ethnicity. The book reveals Jude’s secrets as we sail through its pages, and simultaneously we see how Jude, Willem, Malcolm, and JB manage life in their 20s, 30s, and more. 

A Little life is traumatizing, it demands pain. Skip this book, if you feel like your life is hard enough already (but I don’t recommend it). The themes the book covers makes it a must-read. You need to be mentally prepared for what is to come. The book makes it clear, it doesn’t obscure the truth that it is a distressing story. I don’t want to get into the specifics, but I’ll conclude by saying this to Hanya, ‘I love you so much for writing this book. I cannot express my gratitude in words. The flurry of emotions I felt while reading this book helped to set my priorities right.’


What it is to live? In today’s world filled with pain and distress as a part of our daily lives, Why should we keep living? How much can we push ourselves and How bad is too bad? These were some of the questions posed by my mind during the moments I uncovered ‘A Little Life’ novel. This book prods the extremities on controversial topics such as sexual abuse, medical illness, relationships and to live as it is. The reader discovers the fortitude in each one of us to keep going until we cannot anymore. Hanya took our reality up a notch, where simple reasons are not convincing enough; in the end, life is explained in terms of ‘while there is life, hope remains’ & we can and we will and we should pursue life with kindness. The book leaves an indelible impression on the callousness and cynical faces of humanity while paying homage to friendships during adulthood, which will remain prevalent till the end of time itself.

Contact us @ multiversesociety.space@gmail.com if you want a Kindle edition or .epub of this book. We share our copy for free. Read an Ebook, Save a Tree.

Whatsapp Button works on Mobile Device only