A Little Life – 4 out of 5 stars

Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life is as mysterious as its front-most narrator.

Yanagihara weaves a hard-to-read novel that gives mental health the attention the rest the world rarely does.

Well-written and remarkable while simultaneously grammatically frustrating. As much as I valued the book and rate it highly with full recommendations, Yanagihara’s use of personal pronouns is wildly distracting. I found myself wondering if this was done on purpose or whether the choice in editor was poor.

You see, every main characters is male and each periodically takes a turn narrating. This would be fine if there were any indication whatsoever that a change had or would soon take place. Instead, Yanagihara simply continues with “he” and “him” and “his” while referring to new nouns without bothering to define them. The reader then spends anywhere from a few paragraphs to pages and pages attempting to follow Yanagihara’s train of thought.

While some authors make changes like this with varied chapters, fonts, titles, or the like – it seems like that concept would be, at best, an after-thought in this case. The book would have received an extra star, meaning full five out of five, from me if these and similar grammatical errors had been given more thought.

Pushing grammar, use of fragments, ending with prepositions – none of these elements bother me when done well. But, when writing distracts and confuses the reader, it detracts from the story and puts a damper on the author’s work. You lose your audience. Hopefully your reader keeps trying. With a 700 page book filled with so much the world would benefit from reading, I only hope Yanagihara’s readers don’t give up.

Jude is our human hero who fails to recognise his strengths. Having survived horrid trauma, repetitive childhood rape, abuse throughout his life, assault and battery, domestic violence, and eventually a successful career, hope, love, and an enriching family – Jude is the friend that you’re afraid to walk away from because he’s mysterious, mesmerising, and kind but so hard on himself that you worry when he’s alone.

Yanagihara’s A Little Life is lovely and trying, and a story that happens but not often out loud.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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A Critique – Celeste Ng’s Debut Novel

Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You reads like poetry, with beautiful elaborate descriptions of not only characters but scenes, emotions, and plot twists. It is writing to aspire to, in my opinion. A voice a lyricist would likely respect.

The novel takes its time unfolding, at times at a slower pace than desired. If it weren’t for Ng’s prose, I may have become frustrated with the speed and length of the book.

The themes – family, teen angst, self discovery, 1970s racism – are well portrayed, but I found myself recalling a similar plot within Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. Having adored that book and reflected on it so many times since reading it a few years back, I found myself comparing the two occasionally. The difference in time, tone, place, and dynamics however allow the reader to appreciate both writers’ work.

As a whole, Ng’s debut is enjoyable but leaves something to be desired – perhaps a bit more complexity, a few more pitfalls leaving room for further conflict and, later, potential resolution.

It’s important to note that there doesn’t need to be complete resolution though, especially in a novel where mental health is one of the main threads.

Overall, I would welcome a future book of Ng’s to my Reading List.

To read more about Celeste Ng and her work, visit her website.


Rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

Being A Wallflower

As optimists, we like to tell ourselves that everything will work out fine.
 
As realists, we know in the back of our minds that bad things do happen to good people. 
 
Welcome to my mid-twenties–the years I’m spending learning the things I already knew. This time around learning to live by the things I already knew. What do I mean? If you don’t take the first step and try something crazy, you can’t. If you don’t take control of your own health and well-being and respect who you are, you’ll lose all of the above. 
 
I maintain: moving internationally is hard. January was tough, with a death, a college graduation, a horribly sick family dog, and an incredible stress that I just couldn’t shake. February has traded those stresses with new ones and while my shoulders feel a lighter,  the load is just different. 

Last month I shared with you our new tradition of recording our happiest memories all-year-long to read together on new year’s eve. Focusing on these positive moments can change how you think. When you focus on the positive, you attract that energy and that’s the best advice I can give. I read The Perks of Being A Wallflower recently and was reminded of just this: Things happen in your life, sometimes good, sometime bad, but you choose how to let them affect you. That’s my gift to you this month. Live how you want to.

And for a great laugh, just in case your day calls for it, see this t-shirt. I’m pretty sure it should be in my closet.