A Little Life starts slowly, appearing to describe nothing more than four aimless friends, moving to glittery New York after four years in a pampered elite Boston (excuse me, Cambridge!) college, and I almost gave up after 100 pages of aimlessness and breathless New York travelogue. We have to make choices when faced with a 700-page tome!
But I am glad I persisted, since the book then morphs into the personal, tragic story of one of the four, blending his appalling childhood with his current travails, with the other friends moving to secondary characters. It ends in an overdone, to my taste, and even more tragic episode — but the bulk of the story is breath-taking and full of well-observed details.