101 Books to Read Before You Die discussion

A Little Life
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Alana (alanasbooks) | 1189 comments Mod
Sorry, guys, I forgot to post the thread for this month!

I won't have my copy from the library for awhile so I'm not sure how to break it down, so we'll just post everything in one thread. Just make sure to hide your spoilers and indicate how far along you are in the book for your comments.

Happy holiday reading!


Mike | 318 comments Mod
Finished Part I. Nicely set up character study with a little foreboding information.


Teresa I'm almost finished and already decided I'll be reading it a second time. Its such a powerful story of finding your worth in the world that it deserves a closer look. Beautifully-written, heart-wrenching, and so insightful. Great pick!


Mike | 318 comments Mod
Finished Part 2. Beautiful writing. Fascinating character study of a absolutely broken soul who lives a life of inner torment & self-revulsion.


Irene | 1425 comments Inhaled the first 85 pages yesterday. Can I take off from work, stop eating, put off Christmas chores for another week, etc and just read this book? The writing is so easy, the characters so appealing that reading this is effortless. And, I have every expectation that the story is going to be powerful.


Mike | 318 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "Inhaled the first 85 pages yesterday. Can I take off from work, stop eating, put off Christmas chores for another week, etc and just read this book? "

I'm okay with that!


Teresa That was an emotional read! My book has tear stains.


Irene | 1425 comments Spoiler Alert!!!!!

Finished Part 2.


I have a complaint, a real frustration. Why is it all right to paint Catholics, especially priests, monks and nuns, as universal sadists and perverts? If this had been an army barracks of American soldiers, a community of Hindus, Jewish rabbis, people would be hollering fowl, overt prejudice. I was in a Catholic monastery for seven years, have been around monks and nuns from numerous communities. Are they broken, each with their own baggage? Of course, as much as any other group of humanity. But would you find a community of complete sadists? I seriously doubt it. There are checks and balances, monitoring by ecclesiastical authorities, and state supervision if children are in their care.

OK, done with my rant.


message 9: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen Bardi | 2 comments Just got mine from the library. Can't wait to start reading it.


message 10: by Mike (last edited Dec 18, 2015 05:25PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mike | 318 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "Spoiler Alert!!!!!

Finished Part 2.


I have a complaint, a real frustration. Why is it all right to paint Catholics, especially priests, monks and nuns, as universal sadists and perverts?..."

I think this is a part of the story which is the most unbelievable. An abandoned newborn would not be given to a bunch of monks to raise... I need to suspend my belief to follow that initial thread.


Irene | 1425 comments I agree that it is not believable. Much of the actions and reactions of these friends seem a bit too sentimentalized for it to be totally believable. I am willing to give some leeway. My problem is that I am finding it rather common in literary fiction to paint institutional Catholicism with cruelty, filled with characters who are universal perverts, sadists and hypocrits. No group is universally saintly or evil. Maybe every group gets its turn at being the victim of this sort of thing. I just want there to start to be some indignant outrage, but it appears to be acceptable.


message 12: by Mike (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mike | 318 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "My problem is that I am finding it rather common in literary fiction to paint institutional Catholicism with cruelty, filled with characters who are universal perverts, sadists and hypocrits...."
I think the Western media has a part to play in this... We don't see the St Vincent de Paul society on the front pages etc. we don't see the work the Church performs in the third world. The media focuses on a horrific minority and the well meaning majority are painted with that brush.


Irene | 1425 comments Spoiler Warning
I am at page 340
Spoiler warning



Spoiler Warning

Calab has solidified a complaint I was developing but was afraid to admit. For all the likability in these characters, they are too pure. Willem is total self-sacrificing love, Howard is the ideal of parental love, Andrew is perfect nurturing love, and Calab is unqualified cruelty. Even Jude is too perfect of a victim: a mathmatical genius, a superlative attorney, a gormet cook, an outstanding cake decorater and unassumingly gentle. I realize why the reader sympathizes with Jude; we are given information about what makes him tick. But, the other characters have limited glimpses into his world of psychic pain and self-doubt. A single Willem or Andy in Jude's life would have been a great gift. It is extraordinary that so much unconditional, undemanding love comes his way. But, it is equally extraordinary that Jude seems to attract the most horrendous sadists in a 100 mile radius of him. For how long the author is taking to unfold this story, I thought Calab's violence escolated extremely fast. Despite my misgivings, it is a testiment to the author's skill that I still care about these characters and want to continue to read.


message 14: by Mike (last edited Dec 22, 2015 06:43PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mike | 318 comments Mod
Finished... while I thought there was great potential, after reading I was a bit disappointed in the flatness in the characters and a bit bored as the book was overly long for what little development occurs.
My review --> https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Irene | 1425 comments I have finished
Spoiler Warning.
Review to follow.




Spoiler Warning.



Mike, I agree with you. I thought the book dragged. The author gave unnecessarily long lists, repeated similar sceens over and over, gave us repetitions of endless internal monologues with the same content. I thought a more skilled author would have trusted the reader more, provided the one or two carefully chosen situations or details to carry the revelation. I also was disappointed in how little the characters developed. There was so little nuance. I ended liking JB the best because he felt the most complex and showed a bit of maturation. I felt as if the author was playing for an emotional reaction from the reader, provoking tears, which I resented. Needless to say, I never did cry. In part, it was because these characters felt more like archatypes than as flesh and blood potentials. Although I thought about the story long after I put the book down, it was less about the individuals, than what the author might be doing through them. I also thought the ending was incredibly hopeless. Below is my posted review of the book.


A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

This is an emotionally saturated novel about the power and limitations of love. At over 700 pages, it is not easy to summarize this story of destructive and nurturing relationships in a concise fashion. I understand why this novel has received such favorable reactions. It offers characters so amazingly caring and supportive, a central character so broken but so beautiful despite that, lives so blessed with success, fame, wealth and friendship that a reader may wish to linger in their company far longer than it takes to reach the back cover. With few exceptions, this book is populated with characters that are strikingly pure, pure cruelty, pure love. One or two of the unconditional supportive relationships at the center of this story would be more than most of us get in a life time, but there is a passel of them here and they are sustained over decades. At the center of the narrative is Jude a man so broken by the most extreme physical, sexual and emotional abuse during the first 15 years of his life that the abundant testimonies of unflagging support, the enviable financial, professional and social success, the numerous outstanding talents can never reach his core where a self-injurious, self-loathing child is imprisoned. Through most of this story, I felt as if the author was deliberately trying to manipulate my emotions. We were treated to numerous similar scenes, whether of tenderness, self-harm, heard the same script whether of reassurance or internal self-doubt. I had wished that the author trusted the reader a bit more, allowing us to connect dots without having things hammered at so relentlessly. But, for all of that, the story kept me reading. The characters lingered in my imagination long after I placed the bookmark in a page and moved to other activities. The writing was lovely and captivating. To be able to say this about a book is to admit that, despite any flaws and a profoundly hopeless final message, I really did enjoy it.


Teresa I was one of those people who was so swept up in the emotions that I couldn't properly review it. I planned on reading it a second time to get a better grasp of the story itself, but doubt I can start again from the beginning. It was too draining of a read the first time. Based on your review "I wish the author trusted the reader a bit more", I'd like to recommend Dark Confessions of an Extraordinary, Ordinary Woman. A friend of mine gave me a copy last year for Christmas and it had a life-changing affect on me. It is similar in the pain and struggles the main character faces, but it's a more direct approach with a truly inspiring ending.


Irene | 1425 comments Earlier this year I read Brewster by Mark Slouka. It also dealt with issues of abuse and friendship. But, it never felt as if it was playing on the emotions. The author also trusted the reader more. The characters were far more complex.


Teresa I'll have to check out Brewster. It's a subject that I have personal connection with and reading about other people's experiences helps me cope with my own. Thanks for mentioning it.


message 19: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen Bardi | 2 comments I'm going to have to pick it up again later on too. Not connecting with it. Or it's too disconnected.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 1189 comments Mod
I finally got my library copy (I had no idea how popular this book was!) so I'll get into the discussion after I finish a couple shorter reads I've got going on.


Melanie (mjnettle) Finally received my copy from the library and just finished it. I came here to read what others had thought. I need to sit with my thoughts awhile before I comment but I have rarely read anything where I was so struck by the love shown to others and acts; cruel, unspeakable acts done to another in the name of love.


Britany Finally got my copy from the library and finished it. I agree that it will take some time for me to absorb the bulk of this story, but it impacted me far more than I anticipated. I was ready for the depressing tragedies, but still found myself rooting for these hopeless characters and wanting a happier ending than was afforded.

My Review:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Alana (alanasbooks) | 1189 comments Mod
It took me from August until February to finish this. Mostly because I kept putting it down for long stretches. I was interested in where the story was headed, but it just didn't draw me back in once I set it down.

I had the same problem through the novel that I did at the start; I had a hard time distinguishing between the various characters, and the characters don't really change through the novel, they stay with basically the same types that they start with in college. I don't know ANYONE who stays that static through their lives. Even Jude doesn't really change, he just allows more of his inner self out throughout the story, but he doesn't really grow.

While some of it was insightful (was Yanagihara trying to process through a loved one/family member's depression and anger, or did she ever face it herself?), most of it was painfully, agonizingly emotional and torturous to read. It was SOOOO long and just felt like it was sprinkled with enough pleasant moments to keep the reader hoping for something better. It was depressing and made me angry. Andy must be the worst doctor ever (he should have lost his license for not committing Jude sooner!) and his friends were enabling cowards. I don't think any of them had "perfect love," I think they didn't love him ENOUGH to give him the love he needed, to make him help himself out of the horrible pit he had been thrown into by the world.

Am I glad I read it? I don't feel like it was a complete waste of my time, but I would not read it again and there are very few people I would recommend it to.


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