Jude, Wilhelm, Malcolm, and JB.
You may have heard or read somewhere about this foursome.
They share that bond of friendship you always wanted to have and still crave.
They are also the 4 main characters in Hanya Yanghira’s latest novel, A Little Life.
For those who read by lists such as The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, The Caine Prize for African Writing, Noble Laureates and all the likes, Yanghira’s A Little Life was shortlisted for the 2015 Manbooker Prize.
Early on, I formed opinions. Jude as the epicenter of the book. There was something delicately beautiful about Wilhelm’s relationship with his brother, Hemmingway. JB’s wild at heart and carefree spirit added the needed spark, and for balance, Malcolm’ ordinariness was embraced.
As the stories of these friends continued to unravel, I found myself pausing from time to time, crying, and simply closing the book.
From the synopsis, I knew this was a story I wanted to read. Be prepared though for this is an emotional investment.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I read the last pages, which was a terrible idea because the books spans about 3 decades.
Why would someone put down such a well-told story? I asked in the days that followed my self-imposed A Little Life reading abstinence.
I didn’t want to hurt. To self-inflict pain that may open up healed wounds.
Still, I read. Digging up the 30 years I lost and crumbling all over again.
This tortuous reading cycle created a sort of empathy I had not previously felt by those who cut.
Cutting was that action that I had a lot of whys tagged onto no matter the explanations proferred.
There is this bewildering scene in the book where Wilhem makes incisions on his chest to experience what Jude feels each time he cuts.
His reaction was how do you keep this Jude? It really hurts.
The memories the characters dig up are painful, their present circumstances are convoluted, and as for their future, I shall give no more spoilers.
There were so many things I loved about A Little Life. My favorite character would have to be Harold. His simplicity and ability to make things whole is remarkable.
I picked my way through those lost years like I was walking through a minefield. The awkward and really painful parts were skipped and I held on to those truly beautiful moments.
A Little Life will make a great TV series and I already like the ideas that have been birthed in the reading community.
If you are up for an emotional roller coaster and a great book at the same time, go for it.
For more behind the words footage and the thought process that went into creating the cover for A Little Life, spend some time with Hanya Yanaghira.