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I haven’t been this emotionally destroyed by a book since A Little Life. And I’m having the same struggle now as I did then—how do you recommend a book that is so crushingly sad? How do you justify encouraging people to read a story certain to devastate them?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I am recommending this book anyway. The writing is near flawless. The main character’s painful life and personal failings make me want to weep with empathy. Life can be so, so hard, can’t it? What Munaweera does so brilliantly—and what Yanagihara did with A Little Life—is demonstrate how our past determines our future. Pain in the past does not disappear; it lies in wait, ready to spring back years later with renewed force. People do not make terrible, haunting choices in a vacuum. There is always a way in, a route to understanding, with a deft and sensitive writer as a guide.

My heart is still bleeding, but I’ll be reading everything Munaweera writes from now on.

With regards to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the advance copy. On sale February 16.