Hanya Yanigahara’s utterly engrossing novel, A Little Life, is a love story that intends to break the reader all the way down.
On the surface, though, the novel is the chronicle of a decades’ long friendship between J.B., a talented Haitian American artist, Malcolm, a rising architect and the scion of a wealthy family, Willem, an actor from the Midwest who is on his own in the world, and Jude, the mysterious, broken man who rises to prominence as a lawyer while his friends try to love him well and learn about the dark secrets he keeps.
Really, A Little Life is Jude’s novel. As the narrative unfolds, we learn about his unbearably tormented childhood and his nearly equally tormented adulthood. The book is, certainly dark, and at times melodramatic and something of a fairy tale that keeps getting interrupted by, well, life. A Little Life has flaws but it is those flaws and the sweeping, absorbing story, that make this novel so readable, so painful, so unforgettable.