A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara

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.

The Tiger’s Wife

I’ve been meaning to join an official book club for a while now, because obviously I love discussing books, and Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife is the book that has finally made me pull the trigger on that.

In other words, this is a novel I need to talk through – from the unique structure to the heavy symbolism to genre blending and cultural influences… I just have so many questions. And while some readers might find it frustrating to leave a book with questions unanswered, I personally love being asked to think critically about the various meanings hidden throughout a story.

And though I think it is certainly possible to read too much into “hidden meanings” and symbolism, Obreht’s novel blends just the right amount of clarity and ambiguity. The narrative follows three distinct, yet related stories, two of which read like local legends or fables with hints of magical realism, cultural influence, and regional history, and which shed light on the third strand of the narrative about the death of the protagonist’s grandfather.

Serendipitously, I saw that an Instagram influencer I enjoy, @fictionmatters, selected this as her July book club pick. I’ll be joining in on the discussion and may just have to come back for a part 2 to this book review! 😀

Related Links:

Get the book from an independent bookstore or publisher.

Join the Fiction Matters Patreon to become part of the book club. The Tiger’s Wife is her July pick!

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