Grown Ups

More Great Reads: Grown-Ups – A Little Life

September 23, 2021 | Perseverance

THIS story DELVES INTO heavy EMOTIONAL material, but also explores the beautiful bounds of male friendship...

The novel A Little Life, written by Hanya Yanagihara, chronicles the lives of four male friends — Jude, Willem, Malcom, and JB — who meet, become intensely close in college, and deepen their connection throughout the following decades.

Although the reader experiences the points of view from all four characters as they form their identities, relationships, and careers, the novel narrows its focus on Jude, a man who is bright and intelligent but extremely traumatized by his past.

One aspect of the novel that I found most interesting is how Yanagihara depicts the profound life-long repercussions trauma can have on one’s psyche and body — especially when chronically left ignored and unspoken of.

Even as Jude tries to live in the present as a successful lawyer with people who care about him, his past inevitably affects him every day: how he structures his life, how he interacts with others, and the horrific memories that are always on the edge of his mind.

The challenges are at times quieter and easier to handle and other times so overwhelmingly distressing; but either way, the effects of trauma are extensive — and Jude’s story demonstrates how they must be healed to have a healthy relationship with himself and others.  

A constant tension throughout the story lies in those relationships of Jude’s; specifically, his desire to be close with others and his perpetual need for secrecy to protect himself and his friends from his past traumas.

On one hand Jude is able to persist through the effects of his childhood by having deep and meaningful friendships with men — men who become his chosen family and are a supportive and loving presence in his life. While those connections are powerful, they have their limitations when one has survived as much trauma as Jude.

What really propels A Little Life, though, is Yanagihara’s wonderfully precise and detailed writing; it is rooted in reality and depth of understanding about a variety of topics whether that be the law, acting, architecture, art, etc. The details bring to life to these characters and their relationships with themselves and the world they inhabit so vividly that often I forgot I was reading fiction. It was truly an immersive experience.

 Sarah WNEW BOOK JOY Guest Contributor

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Sarah White

Sarah White recently graduated from Roosevelt University with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

She is still on that trying journey figuring out what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

In the meantime, she deeply enjoys writing, reading, and spending time with her friends and family. 


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