When our book club selected A Little Life for our February read, I was intimidated by the length of the novel, 720 pages in print and 32 hours, 51 minutes on audio. In taking a closer look, I saw that Hanya Yanagihara’s 2015 release sustained a 4.26 rating on Goodreads with 68,468 readers rating and 12,854 posting reviews which is phenomenal. That number continues to grow daily (see above). With a long trip to South Carolina on the horizon, I eagerly downloaded the file to my Audible app. I’m here to tell you, I listened all the way down to South Carolina and back, and for the next three weeks while driving around town and doing my chores. I even had Alexa read to me while I was working at my desk. I was determined to finish, and by the time I arrived at the last page, I no longer cared what happened to the main character. To any of the characters, actually. I just wanted the torture to end.
As an adolescent boy, Jude St. Francis is sexually abused by multiple men for long periods of time. Granted, many bad things happen to this man. But many good things happen to him as well. When his mentor adopts him, he finally gets the loving parents he’s always longed for. He receives a scholarship to an elite New England College where he meets lifelong friends. Faithful friends who are devoted to Jude. He becomes a successful attorney and buys the apartment and weekend retreat of his dreams. He enters into a relationship with the person he loves most in the world. But none of these good things can take away his pain. Cutting himself is the only release he can get. He refuses to seek counseling and he takes his friends for granted. He’s a self-absorbed whiner, and my sympathy for him ran out on page three hundred, which is when the book should have ended.
This is a hard book to read, and an even more difficult book to discuss. Do yourself a favor and skip it!