June 20, 2024
A Little Life – So little to feel… left with nothing but sadness.

A Little Life – So little to feel… left with nothing but sadness.

This might be the weirdest and saddest yet realistic view of a psychology book that I’ve ever read. An 814-pages book that will take you into years and years of the journey of 4 friends throughout their life from university into adulthood with a glimpse of a series of childhood, which will be a heartbreaking, funny, meaningful life journey ahead. This book guarantees you nothing of sad and/or happy ending. It just left you shocked.

A lot of people might object heavily to the book, for which the book provides the topic of drugs, sexual assaults, abuse, LGBT, self-harm, and prostitution. What I cannot highlight more though are also the loving longing for friendship between the characters throughout the years of their adult life, the sweetness and bitterness of their life choices, views, and also friendship. How the four friends make their way into life with their own flaws and characteristics, experiences, jealousy, and traumas.

The first few chapters of the book, describe the young carefree life of the four characters, Jude, Willem, JB and Malcom. They were born and raised in different background and childhood, thus the way they were brought up was also different. Willem is an aspiring handsome actor. Malcolm is a born-rich kid who is making his way frustratingly in the architect world, JB is the witted kid whose always been loved and adored by his family who is often pictured as selfish and mean, then the last… the most mysterious, cold yet warm brilliant, and withdrawn Jude.

Their friendship describes a real friendship situation in young-adult life; being young and broke, whatever to make their way into something, ambitious and adrift. They filled each other slackness and lack of, oftentimes being a provider to the other. Yet during the hard and uncertainty of life, they make their laughs out of it until they reach New York to fulfill their dreams of adulthood. During these times, everyone makes their own way and struggles in life, unsuccessful trials, minimum compensation, and unsatisfied jobs to fulfill dreams and passion while still supporting each other. Their characters are also progressing through here; Jude the mysterious, seems to be more off and remained to withdraw from his friends but steady in his position in the world of law, while JB growing successful and ahead with his dreams he feels jealous of the adulthood life his friends is doing, Malcolm frustrated as ever into the world of an architect that seems cannot make his father happy with what he’s doing, and Willem getting into whatever play he can and getting the recognition but seems to cannot accept fully the reality of his greatness.

The thing about this book is, the happiness and glee you feel reading it as if you witness the great in the life of the characters as they live throughout their adulthood, the kind of people they’ve become – as JB became a famous painter, Malcolm in his prominent works as an architect, Willem famous as ever and literally applauded for his brilliant acting, and Jude success as a lawyer. The other thing to be happy about was the environment and the people surrounding them, they still remained the same on the outside to their other friends. Remain friendly, warm and embracing the people they’ve known ages ago and how they’ve met different other people – Harold and Julia, Andy, Henry Young – and showing their greatest attitude and gratitude towards these people. Their relationship is to die for, where you can be safe with each other ambitions and dreams, warmth, back and bone – as if they all are tied to one another and you know they all are there to support each other too.

Yet … yet… you also see the dark glimpse of their own characters behind closed doors. Their darkest secret and history that led them into the person they became – good and bad. JB whose family always supports him, can’t really understand the struggle of loving or wanting to love someone the way Willem does. Yet JB also cannot shake the jealousy and the horror of the seriousness of adulthood where he and his friends cannot always have fun, party or just live a carefree life. He cannot express it, he wants the love of his friends to remain a 100 to their live as if they are living college and bachelor life. His ambitions of living the empty youth, though he is no longer one, led him into the mean, depressed and nonchalant JB for which he fell into drugs and dangerous friends.

Jude, who is practically 60% story in the book, as depressing as it may his life seems to worse and better together at the same time. We got to see Jude’s unsteady, hardship, and traumatic childhood little by little for which he was in an orphanage, abused as a kid, adrift into what is a healthy relationship and what not. His physical condition did not get better time after time in adulthood through prolonged physical abuse he got and done to himself. But to talk about the hardship in Jude’s life, we also have to talk about the beauty of his life in which he got into a loving parent’s relationship with a fellow Lawyer – Harold and his wife Julia. Not only Harold become his friend in law and life, but he also his guidance, protector, and the one who provided him the kind of father love Jude never got to experience.

Yet, the sadness between the beauty is that, once you were hurt, numerous times, reality and truth kinda fade. You don’t know which way to go and more importantly which way is safe. We saw this in Jude’s eyes, in his own point of view about all of his relationships. For which then it seems like once we are broken, we attract and result in the same type of relationship we once had and experienced and the one that seems steady, right or healthy seems so untrue and hard to believe. Maybe this is the reason a lot of people hate the book or are left dissatisfied.

From the outside world, the four seem to have everything they should be happy about. Something to yell at, show off and be proud of to the world. They all got the success, recognition, friendship and relationship to die for, for people to be jealous about, and it’s beautiful. But, no one knows the inner struggle of their own fear and trauma. Does it really matter what the outside world says about them? They are the only ones who knows what truly they are scared of, what they didn’t get, and what they are hungry for. To get them, what they have to show of themselves, to lose, and to be fearless and bold. Personally for me, this is what makes the book really hard to swallow. Reading it it’s like watching someone’s life that you know of, fly by. Some ugly, some pretty, and mostly heartbreaking if you get to see someone in their raw moment, struggling for what they want the most in life and watch that just flew away and them stay in the same position – scared and not moving forward.

The ‘not-moving-forward’ is not their job or their success or achievement in life, but their inner struggle and pain. Like watching the two aspects of life go together yet one of them remain in the same position is hard and sad. It’s like saying congratulations on your success but sorry you lost an arm. It left me confused and lost. Some will say they straight-up hate it, the way the author tells the story as their life goes by, but to me it has some truth in it. That we all struggle to accept the things we deserve because we think we accept the love we think we deserve by the way we’re brought up and from our own experience. You need a lot of leap of faith and courage to take a different action that you used to do, get, or receive, but not everyone can do that – especially not Jude. At the same time, you cannot make other people believe what they deserve or force someone to take that big ass leap of faith, like the way Willem wishes. And sometimes, people change for the better through hard experiences, like JB did with his problems with drugs.

The bottom line for this book is, that no matter how much you think life can be beautiful; it doesn’t mean it’s what you want, or what you going to choose and do.

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