A Little Life; Hanya Yanagihara; Man Booker Prize; Novel; Review
Someday, when you meet people humiliating you, underestimating you, or measuring you based on your physical appearance or any other background that makes you looking so invaluable, who do you expect to calm down your anger? Is it friends, relatives, or your parents? Perhaps it depends on how close you are to one of them. To the one that has been considered as family. Or, you feel better to keep it as a secret?
In individual community where independence and liberty are very important, personal problem, in certain stage is abandoned. People intend to ignore other person business in the name of human rights. Some person who is able to lift up their problem would probably could manage it properly by increasing their knowledge or their faith whatever solve their problem without involving other people too much. That’s what is supposed to be happened and expected in that kind of community. However, some persons with certain condition, due to the problem itself too much dark and deep, could not easily lifting up their problem. They won’t let other people get into their business. They try to live just like the others (by ignoring the problem) while at the same time they actually just digging the hole for their problem deeper. The risk of depression is there. Mental Health America recorded that people who feel empty inside, over or under stimulated, unable to express their feelings, lonely, fearful of intimate relationship, is in the high risk of self-injury.
Friendship of Jude St. Francis, Malcolm, Willem and JB grew stronger day by day as they are struggling to stand their living in New York City. They fight for their existence in their own field. Artist, actor, architect, lawyer are jobs that bring them to know how strong their ambition to continue their “big life” in NYC. Unlike the other 3, Jude St. Francis, the central of the story who is giving the meaning of life itself, is the most introvert one. Growing orphan in monastery, Jude fully understand that his life is not and will never be the same as the other. Nobody knows, not even the closest friend, Willem, about what really happened to Jude during his childhood. How deep is the scar left. How abusive it is. What made him feeling ‘so small’ beside all his big support to their friends. All his support that gathered them into one family.
Jude, the humble-smart-respectful lawyer is actually the one who are none of receiving what he gives to his friends. Time goes by, days, months and years pass and no one realizing it. Until one day what has been hiding so far arising and asking huge responsibility and care.
A Little Life is talking about many things. It is almost impossible to calculate the problem yet the cause and effect as they are intertwined in an intense plot. As a fashion magazine journalist, Yanagihara is working carefully in some fields very far from fashion itself. She brings us to various worlds that fulfill the buildings, streets and houses of NYC. But none of them is related to fashion journalist. Some art works probably are fields that she had ever been involved with. But there are some deep discussion about math philosophy (especially in the chapter The Axiom of Equality) that made me amazed of the author’s knowledge and research. An analogy of math philosophy into disaster that somehow kind of predicted and measured by people mind written precisely in that chapter. During finishing the book, I almost sure that author is a lecturer. I let my curiosity until more than half to search about what is actually Yanagihara’s job in USA. Which until today for me still never enough considering some fields and cases brought up in this book.
As Man Booker Prize finalist, this book brings a new voice. Yanagihara didn’t force herself to talk about big issue that built the history of America. Instead, she wrote day-to-day living that in fact become the heart of America itself. Recent issues such as homosexual written dramatically which ask everybody to listen and read carefully of what actually happened in our environment.
Using analogy a little to describe a huge and burdened problem in a book with more than 700 pages is really intriguing. Although in some places author looks like over explanation about some characters who is not giving enough support to the main plot, the whole story of this book is still meaningful and disturbing.
Finally, what happened when life seems giving you a lot of opportunity to continue fighting? Is it a bigger life or a little possibility?
Title: A Little Life
Author: Hanya Yanagihara
Publisher: Picador in imprint of Pan MacMillan London (for paperback version)