Overcoming adversity is a theme we encounter again and again, in history, in the news, and in stories told by individuals. In each case I wonder why some turn their lives around and others do not. And where would I fall.
Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life is a 700-page novel about recovering from a childhood of almost non-stop physical and mental abuse. It is a downer of a story, and that recovery is only partially attained is even more of a downer. It's a dark tale of how horrible people can be to one another and how the results can linger for a lifetime.
But the book is balanced with people who are good to each other, in fact this is what makes the book readable and emotional. It isnt the tales of abuse, the descriptions of the awful cutting, but the kindnesses and love the characters have for each other that stuck with me when I wasn't reading.
The only weakness is the over-the-top good fortunes enjoyed by several of the characters; their successes, their homes, and their travels seem unbelievable. But that is my only criticism. It's a long book that pulled me in from the first page. Not a read-in-one-sitting novel, it is too long and too sad. At times I could only read a few pages and then I needed a break. But I knew from the first page Id read it to the end. I recommend it because it is well written, it maintained my interest from start to finish, and especially because it captures the inner life of someone burdened with the baggage of early trauma. The silence, the self-loathing, and the chronic pain are captured so well you can feel it.