A Little Life
A Little Life is the story of four friends, JB, Malcolm, Jude, and Willem, who meet for the first time in their dorm room in college. The book follows the evolution of their lives from then on to the old-ish age, even though there are long flashbacks recounting major events of their lives before their first encounter. This way, laid out in front of our eyes, we look at the whole lives of four human beings.
I find the premise of this kind of books wildly interesting, as it allows me to be a spectator of a full existence, and see its evolutions, the way the people grow and outgrow their own mental models and vision of the world, their struggle and successes and setbacks. It’s inevitable to make a comparison between what I am and what they are in the story at that same age, or asking myself if I will be at that point when I’ll be that old. I feel like a witness in a very intimate yet visible process, especially when the author is good enough to shape the narration in such a way as to feel completely immersive, as it the case for Hanya Yanagihara.
I only felt perplexed by the almost comical peaks of the tragedy befalling one person in some parts of the book. It doesn’t spoil it (I still consider it a masterpiece), but it did make me question the probability of such a chain of events happening. But it makes perfect sense, in retrospect.
It’s also interesting to realize that most of the characters (not only the protagonists) are childless and unmarried. It challenges the stereotypes of adulthood, as has been said also elsewhere on the Web, even though the ones about career and overwork stay persistent – and still feel a bit comical to me, which is the reason why I didn’t give it a 10.