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About A Book: "A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara

A couple people gave me a warning about "A Little Life." It made me read the book differently. Their words impacted my heart as I read and made me want to consider a different way to view this well-written book. I think that the book is about grace and besides being a great book, I found it gave me hope. And this would have never been had my friends not followed the Holy Spirit (whether they realized it or not) and warned me about this book. I wanted to share my notes on the book as a way of maybe returning the joy that they allowed me to experience while reading this book.

However I will say this: If you read this book expecting it to be uplifting without the use of imagination, you will be disappointed. This is one of the heaviest books I've ever read. The subject matter is mostly difficult at every turn in the story. This is why my friends warned me. It deals with all sorts of things that I in my life of privilege have never had to, and never want to process. If you choose to read this book, just know it's not an easy read.

I wrote this poem right before I read the book and I feel this is also what God was/is teaching me through "A Little Life", I know this is the type book that will stick with you and I hope that there can be, if not redemption for Jude's life, at least grace and gratitude.

Gratitude and resilience

are needed in this life.

When we wake up,

when we sleep,

for the food we eat

the friends we have.

For the trials we face,

the dark valleys we traverse.

The joys

and the sorrows

make us who we are.

Gratitude and resilience

are needed in this life

Of grace.

I hope that the following notes on “A Little Life” are filled with hope. They are disjointed but I think that if you’ve read the book you’d be able to follow them.


Jude St. Francis’s life is a sad one. So much tragedy, abandonment, pain and suffering. His life is a hard one to live and a hard one for those who haven’t suffered deeply to imagine.

One of the hardest things to imagine is the feeling that you are not worthy of any love. Jude felt as though he had no worth to anyone. The love that others offered was never received in a deep way. The love others offered, he felt, was never to be his.

I didn’t have an upbringing as tragic as Jude’s. I was loved well. I can’t imagine a life that didn’t feel the least bit worthy of love.

In reading “A Little Life” I was warned that there was no redemptive plot, there was no relief from the pain that, although unsaid, was Jude’s pain. I am beyond grateful for these warnings, because instead of warnings I turned them into challenges to see grace, and so I looked for grace, and found it!

While I see this as a visible outcome I also see grace in this book. Actually, I think the grace and the tragedy are side by side, they are both constant. But what is a life that cannot receive grace? It is Jude’s life, the most tragic kind of life.

I think this book, although I don’t know if intended, is about grace. I’m so glad I was warned about this book, because those warnings made me look for the grace, and in looking there was grace in Jude’s life. Jude, when the grace was offered, didn’t feel worthy of it and so he went back to feed the hyenas that feasted off his torment. There was healing offered for Jude, but repeatedly Jude stuffed it down, denied it, he would not, could not give in and trust those who were really trustworthy.

After the first 15 years as tragic as Jude’s, there is the pain in sin and suffering, that grace is so difficult to be imagined because the nicest thing that was ever done for you was also done by the people who abused and used you. He really did live his life out of fear of those first 15 years and could never get beyond that, who could really? I wonder if this was a true story (and I believe it could be) if Jude could allow grace to break through at an earlier age what would have changed? And I will be left wondering because that is not what happened. But it is a call to us to let grace break through. I find myself wanting to be more vulnerable, more available to who I am and how I am changing than my insecurities want me to be. But I want to be done feeding the hyenas and let the light of grace defeat them.

Who is Jude really? Willem describes the grace in Jude’s life so beautifully. On pages 607-8 the description of Jude is that he is loved and lovely, yes there is a past but Jude is not his past, he is all the wonderful things that Willem describes him as. If only Jude had always known that, and trusted in his worth.

This book makes me want to appreciate all the ones that I have now. It makes want to let people know that I love them sincerely. It makes me want deeper relationships with people that love me for who I am. I want Mo to know that I love her so deeply and that she is so loved. I want my kids to know that they are amazing and so loved. I want my friends to know that the love they show me isn’t taken for granted, but deeply appreciated. This book in a way is teaching me to live, not as Jude St. Francis, but as one who acts on the desires to let the people in his life know they are loved in return. I want to give those in my life not a gift, but my life as a gift, my love as something that is not perfect but it is constant.

Because of the absence of grace for one’s self, one’s life reawakens an imagination not for the horrors of life but how grace might sneak it’s way past the horror and allow light in. The light that Christ said, I am the light. The light where hope is more radiant than the hyenas than darkness, although still present is a bit more bearable because of the grace that is seen and acknowledged. The light that blots out the darkness of the lies and you can see the worth that Christ has bestowed upon you.

Andy is grace

Harold and Julia are grace

Willem is grace

Malcom is grace

Richard is grace

Even JB is grace

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