A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

For the past 2.5 months I have been reading this one book. A library e-book that had to be renewed 4 times, and not because I am a slow reader (that's a given) but because it is 720 pages long. Except it was worth every page.

The book tells a story about four friends that all lead different lives. In the center, however, is Jude St. Frances. Jude is one of the friends that has had an incredibly difficult life. So the book title - "A Little Life" is about his life journey. Where do I even start... Since childhood, Jude's life has been ful of physical and verbal abuse, neglect, and disappointment. Abandoned by his parents, he was picked up by a monastery that gave him this name: Jude St. Frances. In spite of tremendous abuse he faced in his childhood, he becomes a gifted lawyer later in life. Yet he never shares his story with anyone.

As I made my way through the book,  I caught myself cringing,and sighing, and muttering under my breath "oh my gosh..." It's a hard book to read. Jude cuts himself to deal with emotional pain. There are scenes where the author goes into such detail, you can feel Jude's pain. There are extremely detailed scenes of violence and abuse. There are blow-by-blow descriptions of emotional anguish that Jude goes through on an every day basis. 

The only thing I didn't like about the book is it's length. Everything else- the plot, the language, the setting- I loved.  

Will I recommend it? Absolutely, if you are over 21 and have a somewhat stable psyche. Prepare yourself and buckle in- it's a hard book to read but certainly is worth it.

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What Are You Reading?

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Do you have time to read for pleasure?

I barely do. With my teaching job, doctoral classes, a dissertation, friends, family, house, and garden I can take up to 6 months with one book. How sad! 


For the past 4 months I have been living and conducting research in Chile.

I am researching Chilean children's literature and how to use it to teach Spanish as a second language. Although my primary goal is my inquiry project, I have had plenty of time to read fiction. For pleasure. This way, I could get through not one, but four books! 

1. The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

I got this book after falling in love with the other book by this author - The Goldfinch. And although I still like the Goldfinch better, the Secret History was almost just as good. 

The book takes us to a New England college where a group of eccentric students enroll into a Greek course, taught by a very charismatic yet strange professor. Right away you end up with the feeling "something is not right here." And, as a reader, I love that feeling! The book progresses, and the group of students slip into a world where their morality is tested. 

I liked the plot yet what I love most about Donna Tartt is how she uses the language. It is nothing short of delicious. For instance, look at this quote from the book:

It’s a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves? Euripides speaks of the Maenads: head thrown I back, throat to the stars, “more like deer than human being.” To be absolutely free! One is quite capable, of course, of working out these destructive passions in more vulgar and less efficient ways. But how glorious to release them in a single burst! To sing, to scream, to dance barefoot in the woods in the dead of night, with no more awareness of mortality than an animal! These are powerful mysteries. The bellowing of bulls. Springs of honey bubbling from the ground. If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn.
— Donna Tartt, The Secret History

2. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker.

I picked up this book after doing a google search "Books to read if you liked the Goldfinch." This book was one of the suggestions but unfortunately it fell short. I guess I expected a similar writing style with similar plot twists as Donna Tartt. Alas, this was nothing like the Goldfinch. The plot was weak and sappy; the writing clumsy and awkward. It's a star-crossed love story of a blind boy falling in love with a girl that is disabled, too-she cannot walk. Sounds inspirational but it wasn't. Or maybe I am just a ghoul that can't stand "our love is the best-one of a kind-strongest one of all" stories.

3. The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 by Harlan Coben (editor). 

I believe in taking a break from novels and switching to short stories once in a while. I started feeling like that after reading a fabulous anthology of short stories- the Tenth of December by George Saunders.

Every year the editor selects 20 stories to be published in this anthology. Out of the 20 stories, I probably liked Flying Solo by Ed Gorman best. It involved two elderly men dying of cancer leaving a better world behind them. My second favorite is The Hitter by Chris F. Holm. The Hitter story is about a hit man who kills other hit men. good way to discover new authors. 

4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. 

This is an apocalyptic novel and a type of novel I would not normally seek out. After the Georgia Flu kills most of the Earths population, the reader follow the few survivors that fight for their wellbeing in this new, post-apocalyptic world. 

What I liked the most about this novel was that the subject was completely novel to me. I kept thinking that one day it will actually happen. Dreadful, isn't it? Dreadful with a twist of excitement. 

I also enjoyed the author's use of language. It was easy to understand yet beautiful and poignant. It made me wish I could write like this. To see what I mean, read the below quote.

No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.
— Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

Currently reading...

So far, it's amazing!

So far, it's amazing!