Book Reviews: April 2015

a little life, hanya yanagihara, a little life new york times, a little life ny times, april book review

I only read one book last month, but I’ve got quite a lot to say about it.

A-Little-LifeLet me just begin by saying that I absolutely loved this book and there’s no way this little review of mine will do it justice. I’m going to attempt to explain how I feel about this book anyway. I will admit that right now it’s too precious to me and I cannot highlight any flaws, but what review is objective?

A Little Life is the story of four friends: Jude, the intelligent lawyer with a past that constantly threatens his present; Willem, an aspiring actor with a kindness that knows no bounds; Malcolm, who builds tiny houses and likes the control and creativity that architecture requires; and finally JB, the artist with a personality that dominates any room. The book generally takes place in New York City. When it begins, our main characters have recently graduated college and are struggling to make their way in the world. For the rest of the novel we follow their lives over the next 30+ years. We observe friendships strengthen and weaken, romantic relationships begin and end, and the trajectory of their professional careers. This book is about their lives and as you read it, you feel like you’re experiencing your own little life.

It’s been nearly a week since I finished this book and I still feel so close to it and to the characters. I cannot remember the last time a book had such a huge emotional impact on me. The characters are masterfully written and completely engrossing. I truly felt like these characters were living, breathing people (and even at this moment, I almost think that they’re somewhere out there in the city now, walking around and living their lives). I felt like they were my friends. I was so completely and totally invested in their lives that every triumph and tragedy in this book hit me hard. I thought that Yanagihara’s writing was simple and elegant and that the entire story was utterly powerful. She has a skill for putting things plainly and perfectly, so that a mere sentence can feel like a sucker punch to the gut.

Also, I must mention that this book deals with very difficult subjects, including emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Some incidents are described in more detail than others, but if any of those topics are triggers for you, then this may not be the book for you. This book is about what it means to be human and about the evolution of friendships and relationships It’s also about what it means to belong, and how we find our place in the world. It asks, “What is a life and what makes it worth living?”

Throughout the novel, characters are stretched past the limits of what they believe they can endure, and I felt a bit like that as I was reading. By the time I finished, I was physically and mentally spent and I marveled that a book had made me feel that way. I’m sure you’ve heard that this book is overwhelmingly sad, and that’s true, but where there is darkness, there is also light.

I’m just in awe of this book. I cried tears of happiness and tears of despair, and on more than one occasion, I cried myself to sleep. I think what Hanya Yanagihara was able to achieve with this book is a testament to literature. This experience reminded me why reading will always be an important and necessary part of my life.

Have you (or would you) read this book?

Further reading:

How I Wrote My Novel: Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life

The Subversive Brilliance of “A Little Life”

Hanya Yanagihara’s ‘A Little Life’

– Also, there’s an A Little Life instagram account where they post pictures inspired by quotes from the book, and it’s so good.

headshoot, bookstagram headshot, my headshot


I’m Nnenna and this is my online journal where I write about the books I can’t put down, my personal style, the places I’ve traveled to, the products I love, my favorite spots in NYC, and more!

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  1. On my list right now! It sounds like the kind of story I love, I can’t wait to read this!

    Posted 5.1.15 Reply
    • Nnenna wrote:

      Yay! Do let me know what you think if you do read it :)

      Posted 5.3.15 Reply
  2. Interesting, well by your review it sounds like something I will have to add to my list. Thanks for the post. <3 I agree with you reading should definitely be a necessary element in your life … I know for me it is. Have a great weekend. x/Madison
    Stylishly Planted

    Posted 5.1.15 Reply
    • Nnenna wrote:

      Thanks Madison! I hope you’re having a great weekend too :)

      Posted 5.3.15 Reply
  3. I’ve heard so many great things about this book, but still had no idea what it was actually about, so I’m glad I read your review! It sounds so engrossing!

    Posted 5.3.15 Reply
    • Nnenna wrote:

      Oh good, I’m glad you found this helpful! It is completely engrossing- I just loved it.

      Posted 5.3.15 Reply
  4. Che wrote:

    Ooh, I always love hearing about great new reads. This sounds fascinating! Will find it in my local bookstore ASAP =)

    – Che

    Posted 5.3.15 Reply
    • Nnenna wrote:

      Hooray! I’d love to hear your thoughts if you end up reading it :)

      Posted 5.3.15 Reply