A Little Life

A promising law clerk and a fine aspiring actor lease a meager apartment in Manhattan. The friendship forged there between Jude St. Francis and Willem Ragnarsson lays the foundation for their many years together in A Little Life, the astonishing second novel by Hanya Yanagihara (The People in the Trees). Interwoven with these two are their close friends, frenetic artist JB and stalwart architect Malcolm. The foursome's dynamic relationships comprise a lush backdrop for the greater drama gradually unfolding in the decades of Jude's adulthood.

In a story with many moving pieces, Yanagihara fleshes out each character with an empathy that fully embraces their desires and revulsions, so that every break of trust, every tender moment, every secret revealed reverberates across the novel's dazzling panorama. Still, she never loses sight of its enigmatic hub: Jude St. Francis, a man of indeterminate race, with no relatives to speak of, a suspect lack of sexual expression, an excruciating disability he insists not be mentioned, and an entirely inscrutable childhood.

To his friends, Jude is conspicuous in his desire to go unnoticed in the modern era of identity politics, but how long can they maintain the charade of overlooking his vacillating health and psychological distress before Jude becomes a danger to himself? The power of Yanagihara's prose levitates even the heaviest of sorrows. She is a master observer of the human psyche, in all of its fits and starts, and A Little Life vibrates with the hope of personal redemption, delivering something far greater than its humble title presumes. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

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