The 2016 Tournament of Books - Zombie Round, Day One

The 2016 Tournament of Books - Zombie Round, Day One

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara vs. The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

So I've already admitted that I think The Turner House should win the rooster and that A Little Life left me sobbing.

I do understand many of the problems that people have with A Little Life. It's a very allegorical story but then Jude's abuse is so unique, so detailed, that what initially seems like an allegory about Jude trying to move forward without being able to confront his past, but after it is explained in detail in the text, it's unclear how to respond to it.

I also know that one of the book's strengths for me is one of the aspects of the book that was exhausted people the most, namely, the detailed and exhaustive depression and self-abuse. I found it one of the best depictions of depression I've read in a long time. As one who has depression, what others thought was exhausting and over the top as Jude once again thought about how horrible he is, how if anyone knew the truth about him they would shun him and stop caring about him, that people's love is so conditional, that maybe he should end it all - where others are exhausted by this happening yet again in the book, I think, yeah, that's a typical Thursday.

Another overlooked aspect is the genderfluid nature of the characters. Jude and Willem are two men who ultimately end up in a relationship but neither really identifies as gay. Willem makes the point in the book that he's not interested in men, he's interested in Jude. Similarly, Jude is largely asexual. I think that this has been overlooked and it's sad because it is such an interesting part of this allegorical utopian New York that they live in.

Having said that, The Turner House is a very different book in that it's not interested in allegory, it is a book about individuals in an actual city. This is a family saga and like the very best family stories, each characters is unique with their own voice in perspective, the book is nothing but conflict, and there are no villains. You're sympathetic towards them all, you don't hate any, but you can't say that love any of the characters - in other words, family.

It's a hard feat to pull off but when it's done well - and Flournoy does it very well - it feels like a family. It feels like individuals with their own voice who are related and who react to each other like a family.

The book does so many things that seem effortless. So many things that make it easy to ignore just how hard it is to be this subtle, this thoughtful, this nuanced. 

My Verdict:  The Turner House

At the Tournament:  The Turner House


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