Goodreads Summary:When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
This is not a happy book. Are there happy moments? Sure, and actually this book features some of the sweetest scenes I have ever seen but this is not a happy book. This book is an investment both because of the sheer length and how much it will destroy you. I am not usually the type of person who will cry while reading a sad book but I was bawling not once but so many times that I started to lose count. There are so many trigger warnings so you absolutely have to be in the right frame of mind to read it. Trigger warnings for sexual abuse, physical abuse, cutting, suicide, pedophilia and probably a lot more that I’m forgetting. I had no idea what I was getting into when i started reading it so I read this book very slowly because there was only so much I could take before I broke. So don’t take the decision of reading this book lightly because while it’s an amazing book, it’s very intense and isn’t for everyone.
That being said, damn was this book phenomenal! It felt like it was never going to end but when it finally did, I wanted more. Not everyone could have pulled a book like this off but Yanigahara managed do it. You have to be a very good author to write a book with such disturbing content because most of the time it seems like the writer is using people’s suffering to their advantage. A Small Life wasn’t like that. Yes there was so many disturbing moments that made me want to barf but she managed to write it in a way that was tactful and heart wrenching. Writing a book like this is a mark of a truly remarkable author and I can’t wait to read her other works.
This book starts when the characters are in their mid 20s and ends when they’re in their 50s so spans many decades which are the best time of books. I loved seeing the evolution of the characters and really liked how information was slowly revealed throughout this behemoth of a novel. I started off liking the characters a little bit but by the time I was done, I was so emotionally invested in their lives and they felt like dear friends. The way the characters were crafted was so amazing and while this book did primarily focus on one character, Jude, all the other characters were just as interesting. Another really interesting thing about this book is that for the most part it was just expository prose with very little dialogue which is usually something that throws me off in a book but it was done so well. The writing style was so simple and easy to read that it didn’t make the huge hunks of texts as intimidating as it usually would be.
This book is about so many things but I think one of the most important things is that it’s about relationships. And not just romantic ones. Friendships, relationships that aren’t bound by blood but are just as important. Relationships that maybe aren’t the most traditional but are just as valid. They’re are so many different and unique relationships in this book and while some are downright disgusting, others are extremely beautiful. My favorite thing is when books have great characters and great relationships and A Small Life did both amazingly.
The last thing that I really appreciated was the fact that their was no easy solutions. The struggles that the main character, Jude, went through throughout the book was consistent and while there were good periods, his struggles never went away. I found that to be very true to life and while it really hurt to see him suffer so much, I really liked the fact that he didn’t miracurously get better. It was very difficult to read at times because of how true to life it was but I think it’s important to write a story like this. This is not a happy book. There are no happy endings. But every page was worth the sufferring.
Have You Read A Small Life? What Did You Think Of It? Did You Cry as Much As I Did?