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A Little Life
Cover of A Little Life
A Little Life
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
NATIONAL BESTSELLER A stunning “portrait of the enduring grace of friendship” (NPR) about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves. A masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century.

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST MAN BOOKER PRIZE FINALIST WINNER OF THE KIRKUS PRIZE

A Little Life follows four college classmates—broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition—as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune. While their relationships, which are tinged by addiction, success, and pride, deepen over the decades, the men are held together by their devotion to the brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a man scarred by an unspeakable childhood trauma. A hymn to brotherly bonds and a masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Hanya Yanagihara’s stunning novel is about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves.

Look for Hanya Yanagihara’s new novel, To Paradise, available now.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER A stunning “portrait of the enduring grace of friendship” (NPR) about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves. A masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century.

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST MAN BOOKER PRIZE FINALIST WINNER OF THE KIRKUS PRIZE

A Little Life follows four college classmates—broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition—as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune. While their relationships, which are tinged by addiction, success, and pride, deepen over the decades, the men are held together by their devotion to the brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a man scarred by an unspeakable childhood trauma. A hymn to brotherly bonds and a masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Hanya Yanagihara’s stunning novel is about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves.

Look for Hanya Yanagihara’s new novel, To Paradise, available now.
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  • Chapter One 1

    The eleventh apartment had only one closet, but it did have a sliding glass door that opened onto a small balcony, from which he could see a man sitting across the way, outdoors in only a T-shirt and shorts even though it was October, smoking. Willem held up a hand in greeting to him, but the man didn’t wave back.

    In the bedroom, Jude was accordioning the closet door, opening and shutting it, when Willem came in. “There’s only one closet,” he said.

    “That’s okay,” Willem said. “I have nothing to put in it anyway.”

    “Neither do I.” They smiled at each other. The agent from the building wandered in after them. “We’ll take it,” Jude told her.

    But back at the agent’s office, they were told they couldn’t rent the apartment after all. “Why not?” Jude asked her.

    “You don’t make enough to cover six months’ rent, and you don’t have anything in savings,” said the agent, suddenly terse. She had checked their credit and their bank accounts and had at last realized that there was something amiss about two men in their twenties who were not a couple and yet were trying to rent a one-bedroom apartment on a dull (but still expensive) stretch of Twenty-fifth Street. “Do you have anyone who can sign on as your guarantor? A boss? Parents?”

    “Our parents are dead,” said Willem, swiftly.

    The agent sighed. “Then I suggest you lower your expectations. No one who manages a well-run building is going to rent to candidates with your financial profile.” And then she stood, with an air of finality, and looked pointedly at the door.

    When they told JB and Malcolm this, however, they made it into a comedy: the apartment floor became tattooed with mouse droppings, the man across the way had almost exposed himself, the agent was upset because she had been flirting with Willem and he hadn’t reciprocated.

    “Who wants to live on Twenty-fifth and Second anyway,” asked JB. They were at Pho Viet Huong in Chinatown, where they met twice a month for dinner. Pho Viet Huong wasn’t very good—the pho was curiously sugary, the lime juice was soapy, and at least one of them got sick after every meal—but they kept coming, both out of habit and necessity. You could get a bowl of soup or a sandwich at Pho Viet Huong for five dollars, or you could get an entrée, which were eight to ten dollars but much larger, so you could save half of it for the next day or for a snack later that night. Only Malcolm never ate the whole of his entrée and never saved the other half either, and when he was finished eating, he put his plate in the center of the table so Willem and JB—who were always hungry—could eat the rest.

    “Of course we don’t want to live at Twenty-fifth and Second, JB,” said Willem, patiently, “but we don’t really have a choice. We don’t have any money, remember?”

    “I don’t understand why you don’t stay where you are,” said Malcolm, who was now pushing his mushrooms and tofu—he always ordered the same dish: oyster mushrooms and braised tofu in a treacly brown sauce—around his plate, as Willem and JB eyed it.

    “Well, I can’t,” Willem said. “Remember?” He had to have explained this to Malcolm a dozen times in the last three months. “Merritt’s boyfriend’s moving in, so I have to move out.”

    “But why do you have to move out?”

    “Because it’s Merritt’s name on the lease,...
About the Author-
  • Hanya Yanagihara lives in New York City.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 17, 2014
    Yanagihara follows her 2013 debut novel, The People in the Trees, with an epic American tragedy. The story begins with four college friends moving to New York City to begin their careers: architect Malcolm, artist JB, actor Willem, and lawyer Jude. Early on, their concerns are money and job related as they try to find footholds in their respective fields. Over the course of the book, which spans three decades, we witness their highs and lows as they face addiction, deception, and abuse, and their relationships falter and strengthen. The focus narrows as the story unspools—and really, this is Jude's story. Unlike his friends, who have largely ordinary lives, Jude has a horrific trauma in his past, and his inner demons are central to the story. Throughout the years, Jude struggles to keep his terrible childhood secret and to trust those who love him. He cuts himself and contemplates suicide, even as his career flourishes and his friends support him. This is a novel that values the everyday over the extraordinary, the push and pull of human relationships—and the book's effect is cumulative. There is real pleasure in following characters over such a long period, as they react to setbacks and successes, and, in some cases, change. By the time the characters reach their 50s and the story arrives at its moving conclusion, readers will be attached and find them very hard to forget.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from January 1, 2015
    Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions-as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer-and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives. Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don't share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and "Jude's race was undetermined"-deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery. Two of them are straight, one is bisexual, and Jude, whose youth was unspeakably traumatic in a way that's revealed slowly over the course of the book, is gay. There isn't a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn't much plot. There aren't even many markers of what's happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don't see the neighborhood change from gritty artists' enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends' psyches and relationships, and it's utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other's affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life. The phrase "tour de force" could have been invented for this audacious novel.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2015

    Yanagihara follows her debut novel, The People in the Trees, with a deceptively simple tale of four male friends, Jude, Willem, Malcolm, and JB, who meet during their college years at Ivy League institutions. The men choose to continue their journeys into adulthood together by relocating jointly to New York. As they sustain their friendships into their fifties, the author delivers tales of their loyalty, love, and support for one another. However, lying beneath the surface is an emotionally disturbing story line about Jude, a highly successful lawyer and the brightest of the four men. The horrors of Jude's victimization during his youth by the brothers of a monastery and his eventual abduction by Brother Luke, a pedophile and pimp, force him to struggle relentlessly with inner demons and a deep-seated distrust of others, with his pain manifested in constant acts of cutting. VERDICT As in her previous novel, Yanagihara fearlessly broaches difficult topics while simultaneously creating an environment that her audience will find caring and sensitive. Not all readers will embrace this work, given its intense subject. However, for those strong of stomach or bold enough to follow the characters' road of friendship, this heartbreaking story certainly won't be easily forgotten.--Shirley Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    February 15, 2015
    This long, claustrophobically written novel by the author of The People in the Trees (2013) follows the lives of four college men (and their many friends, nearly all male) from their early postgraduation days in New York through much of their accomplished adult lives, and backward to their childhoods. It opens with them helping Willem and the fragile Jude St. Francis move into an apartment on Lispenard Street and then delineates the course of their lives. They include Malcolm, a light-skinned African American architect from a wealthy background; JB, an occasional drug-using artist of Haitian ancestry (the author does a great job of describing his artno easy task); Willem, the handsome actor who, as we first meet him, is, of course, waiting tables downtown; and, at center stage, Jude. Although Jude is a successful litigator, his full background is murky, though what we do learn about it is horrific. Jude is frail, vulnerable, private, and given to cutting himself. In his neediness, he is the focus of the others' existence. This profoundly disturbing book is about pain and compulsion, secrets and betrayals, sexuality and lossbut, finally, about friendship.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

  • The Atlantic "Astonishing."
  • The Wall Street Journal "Remarkable. . . . An epic study of trauma and friendship written with such intelligence and depth of perception that it will be one of the benchmarks against which all other novels that broach those subjects (and they are legion) will be measured. . . . A Little Life announces [Yanagihara] as a major American novelist."
  • The Washington Post "Drawn in extraordinary detail by incantatory prose. . . . Affecting and transcendent."
  • Vogue "[A Little Life] lands with a real sense of occasion: the arrival of a major new voice in fiction. . . . Yanagihara's achievement has less to do with size . . . than with the breadth and depth of its considerable power, which speaks not to the indomitability of the spirit, but to the fragility of the self."
  • The New Yorker "Exquisite. . . . The book shifts from a generational portrait to something darker and more tender: an examination of the depths of human cruelty, counterbalanced by the restorative powers of friendship."
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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