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The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara Review

Title: The People in the Trees

Author: Hanya Yanagihara

First published August 13, 2013

369 pages, Hardcover

ISBN: 9780385536776 (ISBN10: 0385536771)

Rating: 3.73


The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara is a gripping tale of a young doctor’s expedition to a remote Micronesian island called Ivu’ivu. Norton Perina and anthropologist Paul Tallent set out on a journey to find a rumored lost tribe but discover something far more extraordinary – a group of forest dwellers called “The Dreamers,” who are incredibly long-lived but increasingly senile.

Perina believes that the source of their longevity is a rare turtle and becomes obsessed with the possibility of eternal life. He kills one and smuggles the meat back to the US, where he scientifically proves his thesis and wins the Nobel Prize.

However, the miraculous properties of the turtle meat come at a terrible cost, and as things spiral out of control, Perina’s own demons take hold, leading to devastating personal consequences. Yanagihara’s compelling narrative explores the consequences of scientific ambition and the price of immortality in a haunting and thought-provoking way.

About the Author

Hanya Yanagihara is a resident of New York City. She has a presence on Instagram, where she can be found at http://instagram.com/hanyayanagihara.

Her book, “A Little Life,” also has an Instagram account at https://instagram.com/alittlelifebook/.

Editoral Review

Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees is a haunting and poignant novel that explores themes of morality, power, and the consequences of scientific discovery. Yanagihara’s writing is both poetic and devastating, has been compared to literary giants such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and J.M. Coetzee.

Her prose is evocative and lyrical, and she has a rare talent for creating memorable characters that stay with the reader long after the book has ended. The book’s narrative is framed as a memoir, written by Dr. Norton Perina, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who is serving a life sentence for sexual abuse of a minor.

Perina recounts the story of his time on the remote island of Ivu’ivu, where he discovered a tribe of people who seem to have discovered the secret to eternal youth. Perina becomes obsessed with the tribe and their discovery, and his ongoing research into their biology culminates in an experiment that has devastating consequences for the tribe and for Perina himself.

At its core, The People in the Trees is a story about the corruption of power and the dangers of unchecked scientific advancement. Yanagihara’s exploration of these themes is both thought-provoking and disturbing, and she does an excellent job of raising important ethical questions about the intersection of science and morality.

One of the book’s greatest strengths is its character development. The story is narrated by an unreliable protagonist, Dr. Perina, whose narrative voice is often blinkered by his own self-interest and hubris.

Yanagihara does a masterful job of portraying Perina as both a brilliant scientist and a deeply flawed human being, and the resulting tension between these two aspects of his character drives the novel forward. In addition, Yanagihara’s descriptions of the island of Ivu’ivu are vivid and atmospheric, and she does an excellent job of conveying the beauty and isolation of the setting.

The reader feels the same sense of isolation and claustrophobia as the characters on the island, which adds to the overall sense of unease that permeates the novel. However, the book does have some flaws.

Some readers may find the pacing slow at times, and the story does take some time to get going. Additionally, the book’s narrative structure is somewhat disjointed, and Yanagihara jumps back and forth in time in a way that can be confusing.

Despite these issues, The People in the Trees is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that will stay with readers long after they finish it. It is a timely reminder of the importance of restraint and ethical consideration in scientific discovery, and a warning against the dangers of unchecked ambition.

In conclusion, The People in the Trees is a must-read for fans of literary fiction and anyone interested in exploring the complex moral issues that arise in the pursuit of scientific advancement. While the book may not be for everyone, those who appreciate beautiful writing and complex character development are sure to find it a rewarding read.