A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A LIttle Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Fiction, Unabridged Audiobook  32+ Hours
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cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.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.

If you’re feeling a little too thrilled with your life and need to tone that shit down a bit then this book is the one for you. It’s basically 700+ pages of pain and anguish and intense self-loathing. Are you ready?

This is the tragic story of a broken man named Jude and his closest friends. Jude is a man surrounded by people who love him deeply but alas love never seems to be quite enough to help him completely overcome his horrible past.

Jude’s early life was one of devastation. I’m not going to rehash any of the horrible things that Jude experiences in his childhood. I had to suffer through it all, bit by bit, as it was slowly doled out throughout the course of the book, so if you want to know what happens you’ll have to do the same! Just know that it never gets too graphically gross and it easily could’ve gone there.

I see lots of people calling this tragedy porn and such but I don’t feel that way but then again I’ve been reading dark fiction for far too long. Read for yourself something like The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum (which was based on a true crime) and you’ll see what I mean. This story deals more with the inner turmoil and lingering trauma of those earlier cruelties and how they’ve shaped Jude into the person he is in his adult life. It’s not entirely believable, especially the final tragic childhood event, but it’s a compelling character study nonetheless. Still, it is not a book I will ever wish to revisit. Honestly, if I hadn’t been listening to it on audio, I have no doubt that I would’ve DNF’d it because was way too long for my personal liking and I didn’t have the deep emotional cathartic release that everyone else has seemed to have experienced. But, you know, I have cats.

I persevered because I listened to it on audio and I can listen to almost anything if I am enjoying the narrator and the story isn’t completely deplorable. Oliver Wyman narrated my version and he did justice to the work and kept me hooked even through the sloggy, meandering bits. His voice oozes emotion and was calming to me for the 32+ hours he was in my head telling this sad, sad story.

Yes, you read that right. Thirty Two + hours!

It was a grueling exercise in self-torture and there aren’t any truly happy moments in this entire book. They are all tainted by Jude’s sorrow and inner torment. With that said, I didn’t think it was the most tragic story ever told as I’d been led to believe and I am disappointed that it didn’t break my heart. I was kind of looking forward to that. Perhaps all of the “it’ll break you” talk beforehand left me with too high expectations or perhaps it was because I forecasted too many of the reveals long before they were revealed? At any rate, I give the story 3 – 3 ½ stars and the narration 5, settling on an uneasy 4.


  1. LMAO! Yes. This was an absolute horror of a different kind. But man, I LOVEEEEE THIS BOOK.

  2. I know this book gets raving reviews but I know it's not for me so I'll never give it a chance. Glad you stuck with it though and hey, a 4/5 isn't too shabby!

    1. The characterization was amazing but, yeah, not a book for everyone, that's for sure!

  3. I have this on my wishlist. Apparently I want to torture myself..lol I will go with the audio since it was well done. This might be best digested in bits. Fantastic review!

    1. I felt it best to get it over with in one fell swoop, lol. I immersed myself in it for a week but doing it in smaller doses while reading something lighter in between might be for the best :)

  4. This has been on my radar for a long time now. But it is such a big book (or long audio) that I keep putting it off. Plus I have seen mixed things. Good to know the audio is narrated well! Great review!

    1. Thanks Grace, just find yourself super happy to read once you've finished this up. You will need it!


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