Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, in just a few sentences, I will reveal to you my very first 5 star review of 2015. That’s right, my very first. The closest contender before this book was The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski. Why is it the end of August and I haven’t had a 5 star review yet? I honestly don’t really know. I think it’s because I usually reserve my 5-star ratings for books that are mind blowing to me.
Click on the image to reveal the book.
Genre: Adult, Literary Fiction
First off, a little perspective: I rarely cry in books. And if I do, it’s once usually at the end of the book during the epilogue because apparently epilogues make me really sad. But with this book, I was basically crying all over the place. Probably every hundred pages or so. It is about 4 friends named Willem, Malcolm, Jude and JB. When you start off the book, it follows them as they just graduated college and moving into New York City to achieve their dreams. As you move on through the book, it focuses much more on one particular friend, Jude, whom even his friends know nothing about. I feel like the Goodreads page gives a pretty accurate summary without giving away too much but I do feel it’s best to go in blind although I do warn you, it is probably the most disturbing and sad book I’ve ever read.
Written in third person perspective, Yanigihara still manages to keep the intimacy between the characters and the reader despite the detached POV. She digs into the deepest and darkest emotions of our main characters with such delicacy and precision, putting into the words the most abstract of emotions. I can’t even fathom going through some of the things that these characters go through (some people have even said some events were too unrealistic) and yet I found myself so emotionally invested in their stories as if they were my own. It’s set in present-day New York City yet there is no mention of major historical events as you become hypnotized by these lives and by the constant need to know who Jude really is and why he is trapped by his memories. No where in this 720 page book did I find myself bored. Nowhere in this book did I want to stop reading even though I had to because some of the content was so upsetting to me. It only felt long because I felt as though I’d actually been with these characters for their 40 some years of friendship. Unlike a lot of literary fiction, Yanigihara forces you feel things that you’ve never felt before. These people have stayed with me long after I read the book; I was kept up all night reading and thinking about this book. A week later, I’ll still be thinking of these characters.
For a majority of the book, Jude remains shrouded in mystery and that brings up a lot of interesting concepts and allowed the author to write about the boundaries of friendships and relationships and what it means to live as an unconventional adult. This book feels larger than life constantly subverting your prior notions. Can you have a good friendship based on lies and secrecy? Can anything save you from the memories of your past?
In some ways, it’s also a subversion of the fairy tales and legends we’re used to reading because among other things, it fools you into thinking there’s a light at the end of the tunnel when there isn’t but when you look back at the tunnel, you realize that there were patches of light while you were walking through the tunnel. And that is kind of amazing.
“…things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.”
*There are trigger warnings for this book; I wouldn’t let it deter you from experiencing this book and the trigger warnings themselves are spoilery (although they are never used gratuitously or for shock factor). If you’re interested in that, just leave me a comment below and I’ll tell you!