This book is off putting when you initially see it - once because of the sheer size of it. It is close to 750 pages in the hardback (720 to be exact) and the cover is of a young man with an expression that is seemingly a combination of pleasure and pain. This is a book about friendship but not amongst women - it seems that everyone writes a book about friendship between the female gender doesn't it? - but about the friendship between a group of four friends that meet in college and whose relationships span the period of about 30 years in the novel. There's the actor Willem, the artist JB, the architect Malcolm and the attorney, Jude (who we learn is addicted to cutting himself). The center of the story is Jude. The pages that follow shows how each of these men rise and fall and lose their centers and bearings, sometimes painfully.
TRIGGER WARNINGS are a must for this book. Jude's story, which is the center of this novel, is so painful and contains so many triggers that the Civil War looks like child's play. The fact that Yanagihara named this character after the patron saint of lost causes is some poetic justice. She handles it masterfully and yet, the scars that Jude has as an adult - which range from self hatred to the yearning for love and yet the abject mistrust of anyone and everyone. He struggles and struggles and struggles to try to recover. I liked how she really tried to force me to try to enter into the world of someone whose mind was not like my own. And yet, I love also how she is able to capture the warmth and acceptance of true friendship and the different forms of love that exist. I lived this book while reading it and dreamt of it when I wasn't.