This might be the most heart-breaking book I have ever read. It’s dark and heavy, but so profound and powerful. The book centers around Jude and his three friends (Malcolm, JB and Willem) he meets in college. Jude is a very broken man, haunted by the horrific things that happened in his childhood. Although Jude has a few fleeting moments of happiness, he is a very tortured soul who battles with self-disgust and self-hatred.
Through the years his friends try to help him with his sadness in various ways but they all struggle to get Jude to open up and tell them anything about his past. They see warning signs that his health may be declining and that he may be hurting himself but they don’t know what to do about it. “But this was part of the deal when you were friends with Jude: You let things slide that your instincts told you not to, you scooted around the edges of your suspicions. You understood that proof of your friendship lay in keeping your distance, in accepting what was told you, in turning and walking away when the door was shut in your face instead of trying to force it open again.” “How can you help someone who won’t be helped while realizing that if you don’t try to help, then you’re not being a friend at all?”
Jude kept his past a secret because he didn’t want to seem weak or helpless and he was very ashamed of what had happened to him. He was unable to talk to anyone about what he had been through. Every day was a struggle for him. “Every month, every week, he chose to open his eyes, to live another day in the world. He did it when he was feeling so awful that sometimes the pain seemed to transport him to another state, one in which everything, even the past that he worked so hard to forget, seemed to fade into a gray watercolor wash. He did it when his memories crowded out all other thoughts, when it took real effort, real concentration, to tether himself to his current life, to keep himself from raging with despair and shame. He did it when he was so exhausted of trying, when being awake and alive demanded such energy that he had to lie in bed thinking of reasons to get up and try again,” “Life is so sad. It’s so sad, and yet we all do it. We all cling to it; we all search for something to give us solace.”
Jude’s friends did manage to give some meaning to his life and they did bring some much needed happiness and companionship to his life. “The trick of friendship is to find people who are better than you are and appreciate them for what they can teach you. I went to college and I met people who, for whatever reason, decided to be my friends, and they taught me-everything, really. They made me and make me, into something better than I really am.”
“Wasn’t friendship its own miracle, the finding of another person who made the entire lonely world seem somehow less lonely?”
I won’t go into detail about what happened to Jude, but it is revealed slowly throughout the book. It does include some very horrific subject matter so this book may not be for everyone. I will just say it really tore me up. I was heavy-hearted for a long time after I finished reading the book. I felt as if I had been through some sort of emotional turmoil myself, but what an amazing thing that a book has the power to do that to a person. It’s one of those books that I will never forget. It will haunt you for a long time. Read it and weep!!!