My god, did this book pack a wallop. It was incredible. This one took me about 2.5 weeks to finish but it is without question one of the most powerful books I have read since I can remember. It took my breath away.
Dont worry, no spoilers!
The story (fiction) follows four men and the trajectory of their lives and friendships with one another. First off, her writing is excellent. She is a superb writer, on par with Patti Smith and a few other literary heavyweights. And secondly, the story is just riveting. We learn about these four fascinating men, their friendships wrought with contradiction and complications over the years (as most close relationships tend to be), as well as what happens to each of them as they go through life individually. You will be gripped tight by this one.
The book eventually hones in and focuses on one of the characters more so then the others, the story of Jude. His life story is absolutely captivating. Its horrific, tragic, and beautifully told. Your heart aches for Jude, all while you cannot turn away from the jaw dropping story being told.
I was wildly impressed and awed by the way in which this woman (the author) is able to inhabit her characters to such a degree. I cannot think of many other character narratives or emotional in-habitations by an author that felt more authentic than this story. I was blown away. She is out of this world talented.
Further, while reading this particular tale, one feels the entire gamut of emotions coursing through them at varying moments. Everything, from being deeply emotionally moved, to outraged on a characters behalf, to horrified, to a rush of joy for a character.
One of the things I personally loved about this book was how she paints the friendships, which felt authentic to me. When a friendship stretches over a period of years, there will be moments when a friend will let the other one down. When they might unintentionally hurt the other one, or even at times, intentionally. Close friendships, just like a romantic relationship, become layered and complicated as the years go by. I think this makes them all the more beautiful (assuming they are still, by and large, healthy and happy, as well as something that adds to ones life).
By acknowledging that sometimes a loved one may hurt us, or let us down, and that this is normal, human, and to be expected in close relationships, I am by no means suggesting that we should accept and expect ill treatment from those we love, or that its a part of a healthy relationship. Not at all. There are of course, behaviors that once exhibited, are deal breakers. As well as, if a relationship has a significant degree of negativity, hurt, anger, etc within, it probably isn’t a great one.
The point is that all close human relations will have moments of hurt and disappointment, and that this is not automatic evidence of their being bad. The key is in the nature of those hurts and disappointments. Are they human errors, but which come with remorse, apology, a desire to heal the hurt, to make amends and actually learn from such? Do you see action following the hurt that shows this person truly wants to do better? Or, are the hurts frequent, is the person largely emotionally unhealthy, with little interest or action toward change or growth? These distinctions will help one decipher between what is a good relationship with normal human mistakes and hurts, versus a not so good one.
We make mistakes and hurt those whom we love sometimes. And it does not necessarily mean that person is automatically a terrible friend or a bad person. In fact, sometimes that person is a great friend who made a terrible mistake.
There is a moment such as this within “A Little Life” when one of the men does something awful to another. One of his supposed best friends. Your blood boils with rage as you read it, picturing the scene and the pain that must have seared his friends heart. And yet, this same man who did this awful thing to his close friend is a fantastic friend in the big picture. There are numerous moments throughout their friendship when he is unwavering there for his friend, both in spirit and literally. He is loyal and clearly loves his friend deeply, despite that he did this truly horrible thing to him in a singular moment.
So, what I love about this book is the way it presents a friendship, in all its beautiful layers, splinters, nuances, and complications. To me, that its a realistic reflection on what a long term as well as close relationship really is.
This book is one of the best examples of which I have ever come across as a complete contrasting story that occupies both the deepest depths of dark, and the most illuminating of light. While much of it is hard to read, for the pain and trauma that Jude experiences, it is equally filled with moments that lift your heart and bring awe to your soul. This book takes one into the center of experiences such as sexual abuse, both physically, emotionally, and mentally, in a way that is not found in hardly any other books. Its brave, raw, and utterly authentic. It also shows us the heart healing power of friendship, a supportive circle of steadfast and truly good people, and ultimately of love.
Read this book. It will be one of the best you’ve ever read.
If you dont mind spoilers and wish to read a phenomenal review from the NY Times on this book, here is “The Subversive Brilliance of A Little Life.”