I think that this book needs a trigger warning for pretty much everything ever. You might think that I am facetious. I am not. If books trigger you DO NOT READ THIS. I don't have triggers, and it made me feel sick and generally unsettled.
This book is 720 pages long, and that, combined with the difficult and intense subject matter makes it painful to read for long periods of time. It took me a week to get through. But anytime that I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it. I swear I have been DREAMING about this book. I feel a little bit as if I am not okay. The longer I read the book, the more I fixated on it, the more I had this feeling of being crushed very slowly by a large, heavy, weight. I am also very angry. It probably says something about me that I was so anxious 1.) about a fictional character and 2.) about my inability to help said fictional character.
Also, I hate Caleb. And Brother Luke. And that evil frickin' doctor. Let's just make the blanket statement that I hate with the fire of a thousand suns every person that Jude came in contact with before the age of 15. And I am mad at his friends, and his doctor, and Andy because they don't force him to get help. They overlook how damaged he is because they can't find the way to fight with him. This is not okay. This is not what you do when someone is in your care. This isn't what you do when you care for someone. EVERY SINGLE HUMAN THAT JUDE HAS EVER COME ACROSS HAS FAILED HIM IN THIS SIMPLE WAY. For decades.
I read something about this being "the great gay novel" which I can't say I agree with. Yes, there are a lot of gay characters. And characters who aren't straight but maybe aren't 100% gay (I mean, is anyone really 100% one or the other) But shouldn't the definitivly gay novel celebrate that? The stable (although perhaps uninteresting) relationships in this novel all seem to be heterosexual. The most antagonistic and selfish of the friends, JB, is the only one of them to only identify himself as a gay man. The main villain of Jude's adult life is gay. While I support the idea that gay characters should not have to be paragons, I also think that if we talk about a book as the definitive work portraying gay men in novels, it should at least have some glimmer of hope to it. This is not a hopeful book. This is, in fact, the opposite of a hopeful book. It takes hopes about life that you didn't know you had and dashed them to the ground and then kicks them a few times to make sure that they are dead. It makes me sad because it rehashes the idea that to be gay somehow fates you to a life without joy or hope. That somehow you will never learn to love.
A Little Life was powerful, well written and I know that it is going to stay with me for a long time. But I don't think that I will ever want to delve into this world again. I need a shower, a drink, and a hug.
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.