Four friends who just have finished college, move to New York to build their lives: Malcolm, a talented architect, JB, a creative artist and painter, Willem, an aspiring actor and Jude, a brilliant lawyer. They all become stars in their field and over the years their friendship lasts and gets closer. But they cannot fight the ghosts which haunt them from their past. Malcolm and his difficult relationship with his father; Willem and his handicapped brother whom he dearly loved; JB who re-constructed his whole family history – and Jude who has to fight the hardest but cannot escape from what he experienced, what made him the person he is: intelligent, quick-witted, unbeatable in court. Full of self-doubt and hatred, without confidence and desperate to suicidal at home. His self-harming behavior frequently running out of control, the people around him can never give him all the love he desperately needs to survive.
I have never felt that kind of physical pain while reading a book. I have read book about characters with heavy psychological disturbances, suicidal and prone to harming themselves, but never have I felt their pain as deeply as I did while reading this novel. The pain – physical and mental – the protagonist goes through is not just narrated to be read. It creeps into you and makes you feel what he feels. When his past is told, all the molestation he endured and especially the psychological abuse he had to endure and which formed his image of himself – you want to run away, leave the novel behind and hear no more of this. But at the same time the way it is told keeps you reading on and on and on. You always hope for a maybe not happy, but at least positive end, knowing that life does not work in this way and that also the novel, close as it is to a possible reality, might deny you this wish.
Hanya Yanagihara created characters one will hardly forget. This is one of the most impressive novels I have ever read in terms of leaving an imprint on the reader. It portrays the best and the worst of what life has to offer.