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A Little Life
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Archived 2016 Group Reads > A Little Life - Part II - The Postman

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Dianne | 1263 comments Posts on Part II


message 2: by Ami (last edited Jul 30, 2016 04:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ami I thought I would be able to post last night after I finished the section, but honestly, I had to let this bit stew a little. What I came to understand about the Genesis of Jude's life, in a most sparing manner, is that the delivery of the information in "little bits" and peppered throughout comes off feeling just as significant and meaningful versus being spoon fed an abundance of information in great detail. I feel as if somebody has reached inside me, grabbing my heart, and they won't let go as I read "A Little Life...There's this presence of constant pressure. Jude's story is not that much different than the horror stories I've read about how our foster care system fails so many children on a daily basis, the corruption of the Catholic church and the role it played in ruining the lives of so many innocent children; however, reading about these indiscretions being committed within a tragic narrative feels so much more personal. Jude was quite literally abused at every corner of his young life, every corner he thought to be safe...It's amazing to see how much he has accomplished and has yet to accomplish in spite of his upbringing.

It's not so much the content of this section that affects me, it's the execution of the narrative that puts us directly into the shoes of one who is in a constant state of torment...It's the piling on of the most minimal details, at the the turn of every page where, by the end of Chapter 3, the weight of those details is beginning to take their toll. Knowing there's still another 500 pages to go, it can't possibly be the worst of it either.

Chapter 1
I think I read a passage incorrectly, but was Jude hit by a car and is this what caused the damage to his legs?

Chapter 2
How cryptic was this section...I loved that it was from Harold's POV and letter-like written to Willem, I think? The ending of this section left me speechless as Harold says he feels most guilty for driving him somewhere bleak and cold and colorless, and left him standing there, where, back where I had collected him, the landscape shimmered with color, the sky fizzed with fireworks, and he stood openmouthed in wonder. Oh, my. I can speculate, but I'll just continue reading.

Chapter 3
Well, I knew JB was going to be shady about his promise to Jude about allowing him to review the pictures JB would be taking from Part I. For all of the sensitivity and special precautions these friends take in regards to Jude, I thought it was terrible of JB to expose Jude in the manner in which he did, by showcasing an unapproved image of him at a most vulnerable moment. Yes, JB doesn't owe Jude anything, but as his friend, I thought what JB did was self-serving and asinine. Did you think JB redeemed himself by apologizing and giving Jude the painting?

Something I thought Part II continues to build upon is the idea of pain...Both mental and physical. Jude seems to be able to control his physical pain to some degree, his cutting scars serve as reminders of this. He can hide the physical scars pretending they do not exist, but it's his mental scars that he can't seem to cope with in the least. There is so much shame and disgust he associates with himself and the things he has experienced, constantly blaming himself for their occurrence, and believing how those moments were deserved by him. Jude is in a constant state of believing that he cannot be genuinely loved, or he is unable to completely free himself to embrace any moment of happiness...It's a sick cycle he's become a part of with thoughts of the good moments in his life quickly transitioning to a non-desirable consequence because of something he did, ruining any glimpse of contentment with life. Even with the support of Willem, Andy and now Harold, it breaks my heart for Jude, even after he's finally adopted by Harold and his wife, we know that Jude will not be able to live through actually belonging...Something he's always wanted. It's unfortunate to read about because children who grow up the way Jude did almost never break free from their self created prisons without proper concealing. These children who were raised void of proper nurturing, love and compassion, grow up defensive, insecure and ultimately lost.

I am enjoying the character driven narrative as we progress learning about the characters and what piques their fancy. I don't think I quite wrapped my head around it in the first section. Also, I noticed something else in the second part that you brought up earlier...The lack of female characters. There aren't any more women in this current section, but I feel there is a growing sense of nurturing and care with some of the male characters (Willem & Harold), and they at times, seem almost female in a certain sense. Does this make sense? I know I didn't miss the female character in the first section, but I did take into account how Willem was very loving and caring. Now I notice as we learn more about each character just how dependent Jude is for Willem's nurturing...It's like mother and child to a degree.


Catherine (catsmeeow) I can't seem to reply to comments or copy and paste on my goodread apps which is driving me crazy.

Ami - I think it was a car hitting Jude? But he makes it super clear that it is not an accident. Did Brother Luke or someone hit him on purpose?? And that the injury is mainly a problem because of spinal pain as opposed to leg pain?

I agree that there was no way that JB was going to keep his promise. It was sad how Jude's trust in JB is in a way irreparably broken now but the friendship between Willem and Jude seems so deep. I think you're right in the fact that some of them seem more feminine. In that Willem seems like such a nurturer for Jude, a traditionally feminine trait. The boys bonds seem like it stands in place of a more traditional heterosexual relationship.

I was so upset for the first chapter but by the end of the part 2 I was almost in happy tears! I was so glad for Jude when he was adopted. And this time by someone who seemed to want to have a son instead of just a farmhand around. It's tragic that Jude cannot accept happiness and is constantly trying to destroy any chance he has at it because he has essentially had no positive adult males in his life.

There are so many times where I'm reading and I know something was hinted to before and I should go back to connect the dots to see who they are talking about. I think this book would be super interesting to read a second time when you kind of know what to look for.


message 4: by Ami (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ami Catherine wrote: "I can't seem to reply to comments or copy and paste on my goodread apps which is driving me crazy.

Ami - I think it was a car hitting Jude? But he makes it super clear that it is not an accident...."


I think it was a car hitting Jude? Did Brother Luke or someone hit him on purpose?? And that the injury is mainly a problem because of spinal pain as opposed to leg pain?
When I read this part, I wasn't quite sure, but thank you for confirming :) Keep reading it's all there...

And this time by someone who seemed to want to have a son instead of just a farmhand around.
God, wasn't that just terrible...How that couple wanted to use him for a farmhand, but anything was better than the situation he was in. It was terrible to read his adoption didn't go through. Ugh.

There are so many times where I'm reading and I know something was hinted to before and I should go back to connect the dots to see who they are talking about.
Yeah, but they are faint hints for what's to come...I don't think reading those aspects again would necessarily connect any more dots than I connected the first time around. If anything, I'll probably be better equipped to handle what transpires as a whole.


message 5: by Dianne (last edited Aug 19, 2016 05:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dianne | 1263 comments Ami wrote: "I thought I would be able to post last night after I finished the section, but honestly, I had to let this bit stew a little. What I came to understand about the Genesis of Jude's life, in a most s..."

I think the author's slow revelation of information about Jude was brilliant. As a reader you felt like you went through the relationship yourself, you extracted every tiny bit as you went along, you slowly, over a period of agonizing years, put the pieces together. I think this was a such a genius way to cause the readers to feel truly invested in Jude in a way that an expansive summary of his suffering and pain at the outset could never have accomplished.

I think JB felt entitled to display the pictures about Jude, partly because he had grown up feeling entitled, partly because he felt entitled because he was an artist, and partly because, in his own mind, he felt it was for Jude's benefit that the pictures were displayed. I think he tried to redeem himself by giving Jude the painting, I think Jude forgave him.... as much as he was able.

Jude's self image is tragic. He is truly disgusted with himself, thinks he must be disgusting to other people, feels he deserves pain and suffering, is even relieved by it because he is so accustomed to it. In a way, it is amazing that he was able to have a close relationship with anyone.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 456 comments I'm not reading the above comments because I've barely started this section, but I'm only in the first chapter and already two quotes have struck me.

"...the only times he found himself truly relaxing, his mind ceasing to scrabble forward, planning in advance the thousands of little deflections and smudgings of truth, of fact, that necessitated his every interaction with the world and its inhabitants....he had learned not to share evidence of his oddities as a way to distinguish himself from others, although he was happy and proud that they shared theirs with him."

I can't tell if this creeps me out, as in he might be a chronic liar and has some deep, dark (like, serial killer instinct) secrets that he has to hide, or more that it's just indicating the "hiding" that we all do in wanting to be "normal" and to fit in with whatever group we happen to inhabit.

"He felt then, keenly, the loneliness of Felix's life, of a Saturday spent sitting with a crippled nearly thirty-year-old lawyer who was there only to earn money, and who would go out that night with people he loved and who, even, loved him, while Felix remained alone, his mother --Mr. Baker's third wife--perpetually elsewhere, his father convinced there was something wrong with him, something that needed fixing."

If that isn't a statement about life, what is? Don't we all have those moments, no matter how down we may feel, of realizing the riches of what we really have, when we consider those who love us? And the crushing sympathy for those who DON'T have that?



Dianne | 1263 comments Alana wrote: "I'm not reading the above comments because I've barely started this section, but I'm only in the first chapter and already two quotes have struck me.

"...the only times he found himself truly rela..."


these are great excerpts alana. for the first one, I think jude thought that if anyone had even the slightest clue of what he had gone through (and in his view, who he *was* as a result) that he would be utterly rejected and so he lives his life, feverishly, desperately, trying to avoid questions and create half truths so that he can be accepted. And horrible as it is, if he had told all of his friends *everything* would they really have looked at him the same way? I doubt it.

I agree Felix is sad, sad, sad. He was lonely, most of all, which is a horrible state for a child to be in. Jude helped him I think in many more ways than just serving as a teacher. I do feel very sad for people who feel alone in life. However, I think that the world yields what you offer it, if you truly give of yourself you will reap the benefits. Felix, as a young child, however, is pretty much stuck until he has some freedom of his own.


message 8: by Ami (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ami Alana wrote: "I'm not reading the above comments because I've barely started this section, but I'm only in the first chapter and already two quotes have struck me.

"...the only times he found himself truly rela..."


yes, I remember these moments, Alana...Ugh, knife to the heart! I'm going to wait until you finish the section to respond.


message 9: by Ami (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ami Dianne wrote: "Ami wrote: "I thought I would be able to post last night after I finished the section, but honestly, I had to let this bit stew a little. What I came to understand about the Genesis of Jude's life,..."

I think the author's slow revelation of information about Jude was brilliant. As a reader you felt like you went through the relationship yourself,
On point here...YES! I literally felt I was in his shoes. I really took this story quite personally, it was very difficult to talk about at times...It still is, in fact.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 456 comments Additional quotes/statements I found interesting:

pg 95 "None of them really wanted to listen to someone else's story anyway; they only wanted to tell their own." Oh, the truth of this!

Pg 116 "...consider law itself as a series of contracts. Some are more fair...than others. But fairness is not the only, or event he most important, consideration in law: the law is not always fair. Contracts are not fair, not always. But sometimes they are necessary, these unfairnesses, because they are necessary for the proper functioning of society. In this class you will learn the difference between what is fair and what is just, and, as important, between what is fair and what is necessary.

I found myself pondering this idea, the difference between the fair and the just, the fair and necessary. I'm still not sure entirely how I feel about it. But I think, at least to a degree, that I agree with him. Consider a divorce: there is not going to be any "fairness" in it, at least on an emotional level. Certainly not for any children involved, who are facing their world as they know it getting ripped apart, and not for the couple, one or both of whom could have been extremely emotionally traumatized by it. However, financially, the situation can be "resolved" as justly as possible, insomuch as how funds (and, let's face it, children) are dispersed. It's not ideal, not "fair," but the best that society can do for what is necessary. I think that may be what he is getting at.

pg 126 "He experienced the singular pleasure of watching people he loved fall in love with other people he loved." I love this! Isn't that one of the best feelings in the world, when two people that you so greatly enjoy for yourself also find that they enjoy each other? It brings a whole new dimension to friendships that, unfortunately, doesn't always happen.

pg 164 "Fairness is for happy people, for people who have been lucky enough to have lived a life defined more by certainties than be ambiguities. I have been pondering this especially recently, with so many conflicts in the news about race, religious groups, etc. I find myself comparing things like "white privilege," that often maybe we have a very different sense of "fairness" because life has treated us well, overall, and we feel entitled to fairness, since, in reality, that's all we've really experienced? Or as in my case, where I grew up in a two-parent home and never went through what so many families go through in the world-shattering situation of divorce, and re-discovering who I am while dealing with parents in separate homes? Or any number of other "unfair" (at best) situations. Does "fair" have a different connotation to upper and lower classes, for example? To different races, and what they, as a people group, have experienced? To someone who was abused as a child and someone who wasn't?

pg 193 '"The hardest thing is not finding the knowledge,' Brother Luke once said to him after he'd confessed he was having difficulty believing in God. 'The hardest thing is believing it.'" Interesting to have such an enlightened, true statement from someone that obviously had such a long-term negative affect on him. Maybe sometimes we remember the lessons of those who hurt us the most?

pg 205 "the only trick of friendship...is to find people who are better than you are--not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving--and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad--or good--it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well." Thoughts on this?

I've had trouble picking this one up lately, mostly because we've been very busy lately, but it's also very emotionally draining. My reading about Jude's early years happened to coincide with my finding out some news from a friend whom I've known (along with her husband) for about ten years. She discovered recently that her husband has been molesting their two young children, probably for a couple of years, and now is dealing with all of the repercussions of that. I found this out just after reading the chapter about Jude and it was very eerie (and heart-wrenching and emotionally exhausting). It made me ponder the choices adults make and how someone is able to cross that line... how the brain even gets there. It's beyond me, but maybe it's because I had a more sheltered experience growing up?

It's interesting that someone mentioned the more traditionally "feminine" personalities of some of the characters, especially Jude. I am not sure if Jude's reactions to his "upbringing" (if you can call it that)--in the fears of discovery, constantly expecting rejection, bracing for the worst--is a typical reaction of someone who has experienced such things, or if it's a more stereotypically feminine response? How much of Jude's actions are realistic, and how much is because of being written by a female?

Sorry, lots of thoughts on this one, I'll try to be more concise next time! Although it's a long book, in my defense :)


Dianne | 1263 comments No way Alana, it's great to hear from you and these are great insights.

Re everyone wants to hear their own story, you know this is basically true. People love to talk about themselves and rarely truly care about others. In this case, I think Jude is wrong, I think his friends would truly care to hear his story, but those people tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

Re justice/fairness, I am SO glad you pointed this passage out. As a lawyer I really thought about this and I agree with the passage. I think it applies more to the application of the law though than the emotional impact of it. But there is some counterbalancing that isn't 'fair' to make up for injustices, affirmative action , etc.

I'll post some more in separate posts since I'm on my phone and can't keep looking at the original post.


message 12: by Dianne (last edited Sep 04, 2016 06:58PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dianne | 1263 comments Re: watching those you love fall in love with each other - you know in rare circumstances I've had dear friends of mine meet and I don't love it. Mostly because I so value the time of each that i want to focus on each of them 100%

Re: fairness. Soooo im divorced and my kids are better off for it. It's a peeve of mine that people say it's world shattering blah blah blah. It doesn't have to be. My kids dad wasn't really involved with them when we were together and now he knows every detail about their lives. I'm happier, he's happier, everyone is better and happier. So yeah. Doesn't have to be bad.

But I think that the passage means that, for those who weren't blessed with a confluence of lucky circumstances (family, resources, stability etc) many grow up just *assuming* life is unfair. It's unthinkable that it's not, it's all they know. Only those ignorant blessed people don't realize how harsh and unfair the real world actually is, because they live in an insulated bubble.


Dianne | 1263 comments Dianne wrote: "Re: watching those you love fall in love with each other - you know in rare circumstances I've had dear friends of mine meet and I don't love it. Mostly because I so value the time of each that i w..."

Re: trick of friendship. I liked this passage. I think these are qualities many people don't really appreciate though. And even in this passage, it implies that you should value these qualities for what they can reveal about your own self. Is that using them?

Re: your friend. That is horrible. I can't believe she didn't know for so long. How is that possible? I wish for the best for your friend and her kids, that is brutal. I can't even imagine.

Re: Jude - I think his reactions are more those of an abused child than a female -I hope! I don't think women fear rejection or brace for the worst necessarily, it certainly never occurred to me to do either. I think the portrayal of Jude is great, and i don't think the fact that the author was female tainted it. In general though, I do think some of the friends had some qualities that women may have more often than men, the connectedness, the nurturing, the continued contact, the supportiveness.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 456 comments True, the example I used were broad, not meant to represent all situations, just giving the the idea of what might be meant by the passage. But yes, "fairness" being differentiated by what was "fair" growing up is certainly interesting, and probably very true.

I hadn't thought about the passage about friendship as a means to "use" the friends. I think he was looking at it more like someone who just values them as friends, and sees in them the things that bring out the best in HIM, not just their flaws. For example, he sees the valuable qualities in JB, who is extremely talented and cerebral in his own way, very driven, strong-willed, etc, despite his very obvious flaws of being rather narcissistic and kind of a jerk at times. Jude doesn't see him as that, even if he feels the effects at times... he sees the positive values in the friend and not just what he, Jude, can gain from him. He sees how JB, and all the others, can, by example, make him look at himself and make himself a better person.

I didn't distinguish my question about Jude's reactions to his abuse very well: I think so many examples that we hear of in the media MOST of the time are of battered women in bad domestic situations, so most of my literary comparisons for Jude are female. My question is more do we think that Jude is acting the way that a male might "normally" respond to such abuse, or more the way a female might? Or do we have enough data from either group over a period of time to make that distinction? Or do all persons coming from a similar background experience the same reactions, the same fear of rejection, etc? I would imagine yes, but since all of us respond different to grief, anger, hurt, etc, I doubt we all respond in the same way to abuse of that nature.

(With my friend, she thinks it's only REALLY progressed in the last few months since they've been separated, and he's had them alone on weekends. She's not sure the extent of what was going on before, but there have been behavioral changes in the girls in the last couple of months that made her get very suspicious. A long story, but it's definitely going to be a very rough time for awhile!)

I have trouble picking this book up, although I enjoy (well, am intrigued by the story, anyway) it while I'm reading it. I may find myself ignoring it this week and not getting back to it until this next weekend though, so I MIGHT finish it by the end of the year :P


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