A Little Life - book cover
  • Publisher : Anchor; Reprint edition
  • Published : 26 Jan 2016
  • Pages : 832
  • ISBN-10 : 0804172706
  • ISBN-13 : 9780804172707
  • Language : English

A Little Life

NATIONAL BESTSELLER A stunning "portrait of the enduring grace of friendship" (NPR) about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves. A masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century.


A Little Life follows four college classmates-broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition-as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune. While their relationships, which are tinged by addiction, success, and pride, deepen over the decades, the men are held together by their devotion to the brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a man scarred by an unspeakable childhood trauma. A hymn to brotherly bonds and a masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Hanya Yanagihara's stunning novel is about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves.

Look for Hanya Yanagihara's new novel, To Paradise, coming in January 2022.

Editorial Reviews

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal • NPR • Vanity FairVogueMinneapolis Star TribuneSt. Louis Post-DispatchThe GuardianO, The Oprah Magazine • Slate • Newsday • Buzzfeed • The EconomistNewsweekPeopleKansas City Star • Shelf Awareness • Time Out New YorkHuffington Post • Book Riot • Refinery29 • BookpagePublishers WeeklyKirkus

"Astonishing." -The Atlantic

"Deeply moving. . . . A wrenching portrait of the enduring grace of friendship." -NPR

"Elemental, irreducible." -The New Yorker

"Hypnotic. . . . An intimate, operatic friendship between four men." -The Economist

"Capacious and consuming. . . . Immersive." -The Boston Globe

"Beautiful." -Los Angeles Times

"Exquisite. . . . It's not hyperbole to call this novel a masterwork-if anything that word is simply just too little for it." -San Francisco Chronicle

"Remarkable. . . . An epic study of trauma and friendship written with such intelligence and depth of perception that it will be one of the benchmarks against which all other novels that broach those subjects (and they are legion) will be measured. . . . A Little Life announces [Yanagihara] as a major American novelist." -The Wall Street Journal

"Utterly gripping. Wonderfully romantic and sometimes harrowing, A Little Life kept me reading late into the night, night after night." -Edmund White

"Spellbinding . . . . An exquisitely written, complex triumph." -O, The Oprah Magazine

"Drawn in extraordinary detail by incantatory prose. . . . Affecting and transcendent." -The Washington Post

"[A Little Life] lands with a real sense of occasion: the arrival of a major new voice in fiction. . . . Yanagihara's achievement has less to do with size . . . than with the breadth and depth of its considerable power, which speaks not to the indomitability of the spirit, but to the fragility of the self." -Vogue

"Exquisite. . . . The book shifts from a generational portrait to something darker and more tender: an examination of the depths of human cruelty, counterbalanced by the restorative powers of friendship." -The New Yorker

"A book unlike any other. . . . A Little Life asks serious questions about humanism and euthanasia and psychiatry and any number of the partis pris of modern western life. . . . A devastating read that will leave your heart, like the Grinch's, a few sizes larger." -The Guardian


Readers Top Reviews

Kindle Paul Moriar
Yanagihara writes beautifully but doesn't know when to stop.Seven hundred pages about rich New York men and their friendship.Centered round a ruthless lawyer who was brutally abused by a number of men when he was a child.Out of shame he periodically cuts himself.His friends adore him,though it's hard to understand what he gives them.Women are hardly mentioned.
C. PetriErica G Ster
UGH. I just finished A Little Life (finally!) and I thought it was AWFUL. I cannot understand the praise given to this bloated, droning, depressing piece of work. The narrative is unrealistic, the characters are completely one dimensional, and the same self indulgent torture porn gets retold over and over and over again. It’s repetitive, cliche, and unoriginal and the same awful story could have been told in 500 pages instead of 800. I’ve heard people say the story sucks, but “it’s so well written!” I absolutely disagree. The tone is pretentious throughout and the author is so terrified of making a grammatical error that she writes stuff like “listening to the radio with which you would both sing along loudly” in order to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition. The amount of “in which” “of whom” “with whom” language made this stiff and un-relatable. 0/10 do not recommend.
The Smiths
I liked this book for many of the reasons already espoused. Particularly because of the field I work-I appreciated the illustration of the hidden life and thoughts of a traumatized character. I work with abused and traumatized children and adults. If you work in the field or closely with those around chronic sexual abuse you may decide to skip this read as it may feel too overwhelmingly like work... And it will. For me, it increased my motivation to work with this population... Particularly as this work highlights how vital it is for early age interventions (though that is not the intent or focus of the book that is my personal takeaway). I feel after reading through various negative reviews I would like to clear up a common / thread in the negative reviews. Many of the 1 stars continually stated how long the book was and "there was no way one person could go through that much trauma... Meet that many perverts and paedophiles..." Sure the book is long, I've got nothing to clear up there; but for any of you who work in "the system," as I do, you absolutely know that the level of abuse depicted in the book is not only in the realm of reality but sadly the history of several of my clients. You may decide you can't handle the subject matter; too many traumatic details; too much cutting; you hate it because of some of the other story lines or clichés in the art community; too frustrated with Jude's inability to see himself as something different Etc. But please don't write it off because you find his level of abuse and self-loathing as "unbelievable." It may be unimaginable for most of the readers (and it should be) but for some reading the book it was a reality and some who work with traumatized clients we experience it second hand. Several 1 star raters only wrote about "how unbelievable it would be for a counselor to do that" or the 'unbelievable" crazy doctor--and to that I say look up complex trauma and the testimony of domestic sex slaves (ie Jude). True most of those I work with do not end up with Jude's career but Jude was also highly educated and later has positive, healthy relationships by 16. We know relationships are a number one factor in resiliency in traumatized patients. The book is heavy and there are happy moments but no happy ending. What I appreciated about Jude being a seemingly successful New Yorker was how it challenged the reader on how hidden the traumatized soul can be. I realize this review doesn't get into the likes but after reading so many of the 1 stars saying how "melodramatic" and "lifetime movie" Jude's story was I felt like another perspective was warranted. You may find other characters (particularly of the art scene) clichés (not necessarily unreal) or take issue with length and jarring transitions (which I found added to the intensity and disorientation in a positive way) but please rethink t...

Short Excerpt Teaser


The eleventh apartment had only one closet, but it did have a sliding glass door that opened onto a small balcony, from which he could see a man sitting across the way, outdoors in only a T-shirt and shorts even though it was October, smoking. Willem held up a hand in greeting to him, but the man didn't wave back.

In the bedroom, Jude was accordioning the closet door, opening and shutting it, when Willem came in. "There's only one closet," he said.

"That's okay," Willem said. "I have nothing to put in it anyway."

"Neither do I." They smiled at each other. The agent from the building wandered in after them. "We'll take it," Jude told her.

But back at the agent's office, they were told they couldn't rent the apartment after all. "Why not?" Jude asked her.

"You don't make enough to cover six months' rent, and you don't have anything in savings," said the agent, suddenly terse. She had checked their credit and their bank accounts and had at last realized that there was something amiss about two men in their twenties who were not a couple and yet were trying to rent a one-bedroom apartment on a dull (but still expensive) stretch of Twenty-fifth Street. "Do you have anyone who can sign on as your guarantor? A boss? Parents?"

"Our parents are dead," said Willem, swiftly.

The agent sighed. "Then I suggest you lower your expectations. No one who manages a well-run building is going to rent to candidates with your financial profile." And then she stood, with an air of finality, and looked pointedly at the door.

When they told JB and Malcolm this, however, they made it into a comedy: the apartment floor became tattooed with mouse droppings, the man across the way had almost exposed himself, the agent was upset because she had been flirting with Willem and he hadn't reciprocated.

"Who wants to live on Twenty-fifth and Second anyway," asked JB. They were at Pho Viet Huong in Chinatown, where they met twice a month for dinner. Pho Viet Huong wasn't very good--the pho was curiously sugary, the lime juice was soapy, and at least one of them got sick after every meal--but they kept coming, both out of habit and necessity. You could get a bowl of soup or a sandwich at Pho Viet Huong for five dollars, or you could get an entrée, which were eight to ten dollars but much larger, so you could save half of it for the next day or for a snack later that night. Only Malcolm never ate the whole of his entrée and never saved the other half either, and when he was finished eating, he put his plate in the center of the table so Willem and JB--who were always hungry--could eat the rest.

"Of course we don't want to live at Twenty-fifth and Second, JB," said Willem, patiently, "but we don't really have a choice. We don't have any money, remember?"

"I don't understand why you don't stay where you are," said Malcolm, who was now pushing his mushrooms and tofu--he always ordered the same dish: oyster mushrooms and braised tofu in a treacly brown sauce--around his plate, as Willem and JB eyed it.

"Well, I can't," Willem said. "Remember?" He had to have explained this to Malcolm a dozen times in the last three months. "Merritt's boyfriend's moving in, so I have to move out."

"But why do you have to move out?"

"Because it's Merritt's name on the lease, Malcolm!" said JB.

"Oh," Malcolm said. He was quiet. He often forgot what he considered inconsequential details, but he also never seemed to mind when people grew impatient with him for forgetting. "Right." He moved the mushrooms to the center of the table. "But you, Jude--"

"I can't stay at your place forever, Malcolm. Your parents are going to kill me at some point."

"My parents love you."

"That's nice of you to say. But they won't if I don't move out, and soon."

Malcolm was the only one of the four of them who lived at home, and as JB liked to say, if he had Malcolm's home, he would live at home too. It wasn't as if Malcolm's house was particularly grand--it was, in fact, creaky and ill-kept, and Willem had once gotten a splinter simply by running his hand up its banister--but it was large: a real Upper East Side town house. Malcolm's sister, Flora, who was three years older than him, had moved out of the basement apartment recently, and Jude had taken her place as a short-term solution: Eventually, Malcolm's parents would want to reclaim the unit to convert it into offices for his mother's literary agency, which meant Jude (who was finding the flight of stairs that led down to it too difficult to navigate anyway) had to look for his own apartment.

And it was natural that he would live with Willem; they had been roommates throughout college. In their first year, the four of them had shared...