It was when reading The People in the Trees that I first discovered what good writing could do to me. After reading Hanya Yanagihara‘s debut novel, I was left paralyzed, staring at the wall in front of me for some time before I was able to gather my pieces and carry on with life. The story had devastated me. So little was revealed at a time that I had no idea what I would be fighting up against. For these very reasons, I stayed away from A Little Life on purpose. I just knew she’d ruin me.
But, one day, I found myself having just finished Wounds of Passion by bell hooks and I wanted to be inspired. I wanted to be taught. If you want to be shown how it’s done, I naturally felt as if I needed to be reading Hanya Yanagihara. She is a master.
And, as I suspected, she did inspire me. She did teach me. A Little Life is as beautifully written as I suspected. The story moves in a slow, real way; revealing bits and pieces a little at a time. This style placed me in the story, making me a part of its evolution. I knew the characters. Through moments when I couldn’t read it, I read all the reviews just so that I could be in that space with other readers. That is how obsessed it made me!
However, I never actually finished A Little Life.
I just couldn’t. If The People in the Trees paralyzed me, A Little Life has left me ruined. I stopped on the 427th page, out of 720 and waved the white flag. It is the most depressing, heart wrenching, well-written story I’ve ever stumbled upon in my life. I laughed and cried in those first 427 pages. I found myself thinking of the characters when I wasn’t reading, especially Jude and Willem, wondering how could someone endure. I felt sick to my stomach knowing that there are people in this world who live such a painful life; knowing that people could be so mean. My heart could no longer take the pain.
I don’t know if/when I will pick up A Little Life again. I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it. But if you believe your heart can endure a front seat to heartache, pick it up. Please, come back and let me know how many pieces it has broke you into.