I’d heard this was a beautiful, sad story before I started it, and that was about all I knew. But both words – beautiful, sad – are woefully inadequate to describe this novel. This is a story about the power of friendship, but the characters in this novel overcome every kind of obstacle and injustice: addiction, sexual abuse, physical abuse, depression, self-doubt, poverty, grief, and more…. And yet, the story of friendship is really what wins out in the end, and I think that is such a testament to Yanagihara’s storytelling ability. She builds characters that are so convincing and engaging that the reader not only roots for them, but cares for them, and at a very minimum wants to know what happens to them. These are characters I will never forget – friendships I will never forget.
I recently listened to an interview with Hanya Yanagihara discussing this book and was surprised at the professional and somewhat distanced tone she used when speaking of this novel, which is so full of emotion that I was often brought to tears (and left utterly speechless when my husband asked what was wrong). That is the kind of writing I love, and yet, I could not wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone. There is too much pain in this story, too much heartbreak, too many trigger warnings.
If you’ve read this one, I would love to hear from you. I could talk about it for days. If you haven’t read it, proceed with caution…it’s heavy. Worth it, but very heavy.