RaveThe Washington PostA Little Life, is a witness to human suffering pushed to its limits, drawn in extraordinary detail by incantatory prose ... Through insightful detail and her decade-by-decade examination of these people’s lives, Yanagihara has drawn a deeply realized character study that inspires as much as devastates. It’s a life, just like everyone else’s, but in Yanagihara’s hands, it’s also tender and large, affecting and transcendent; not a little life at all.
Little Fires EverywhereCeleste Ng
MixedThe Washington Post[The] comparison between the outsiders and the comfortable middle class is sharp stuff, and Ng has great fun making not-so-subtle digs at the more parochial characters, balancing their myopia with small cracks of insight ... It’s a little bit Desperate Housewives crossed with racial issues on a soundtrack by Alanis Morissette, but as she did in the first half, Ng parses both sides of the interracial adoption argument with fluent prose ... But situations can move a story only so far. After some time, it becomes clear that Ng’s keenness to write a think piece on interracial adoption is greater than her desire to truly inhabit these characters and their desires. Regrettably, even Mia — who Ng frames as the artist-as-truthteller — remains one note, reducing the effectiveness of her arguments about showing people as she sees them. As for the Asian characters, whose role in part is to provide the chorus of dissent against the McCulloughs, they also fall under tropes. Although the stereotypes are sympathetic as opposed to negative (the benevolent neighbor, the desperate mother), they’re never afforded the same depth of emotional life — however limited — that the white characters are. It’s a huge disappointment. Without fully giving voice to the community central to the inciting incident of the novel, Ng risks reinforcing their marginal nature and fortifying middle-class myopia instead of imploding it.