A Little Life- Hanya Yanagihara
nationality: USA, of color
A biography of a very traumatized man and the people who love him as the adult.
Well, at first, you hear from the viewpoints of the three main friends of Jude, his college roommates (in a tiny room) and it establishes the lines and loyalties. The well-off versus the poorer, the race lines, and the future careers they will follow. Then you hear from Jude, who you quickly realize is a very damaged individual. That's what this book is, the life of Jude, a shockingly damaged individual as the scars of a very abusive childhood linger on into deepest adulthood. Here are some trigger warnings: pedophilia, trafficking, self-cutting, eating disorder because Jude is fundamentally convinced that he is unlovable-his body a minefield of scars and disabled legs and his mind a minefield of memories and self-destructive defense strategies. This is a very intense world view and Yanagihara shys away from nothing. Yet she also inhabits his world with such good people who genuinely care for him and so there are so many more tragedies here. Your heart is not breaking just for Jude, but also for his friends, his adoptive parents, his lover who are watching this strong character destroy himself with isolation. The novel is so well crafted that I can't really point to just one thing that Yanagihara is doing to wreak havoc on your emotional state-the pacing is well done, the situations realistic, the triumphs are triumphs and the drawbacks are wearying. The prose morphs along the way as the characters mature and grow older and wiser. Masterful novel.
My only critique is just how Yanagihara tries to make it a bit of a timeless story (and it is) by stripping out the usual markers of time (she sets NYC as the setting quite well) but despite that, it feels like a novel about people in the 1980s-90s based on the trajectory of their lives which yes, includes rags to riches and a geography of NYC that real estate prices would block modern individuals from following a similar trajectory. Also, too many artists with European residencies and the like.There's also a little bit of a sense of unreality at just how much abuse Yanagihara throws at Jude while making him super successful in all other aspects of his adulthood which sometimes felt a bit gratuitous.