The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
A Novel

74%

8 Critic Reviews

Provocative and bleak, “The People in the Trees” might leave readers conflicted. It is exhaustingly inventive and almost defiant in its refusal to offer redemption or solace — but that is arguably one of its virtues.
-NY Times

Synopsis

Readers of exciting, challenging and visionary literary fiction—including admirers of Norman Rush's Mating, Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, and Peter Matthiessen's At Play in the Fields of the Lord—will be drawn to this astonishingly gripping and accomplished first novel. A decade in the writing, this is an anthropological adventure story that combines the visceral allure of a thriller with a profound and tragic vision of what happens when cultures collide. It is a book that instantly catapults Hanya Yanagihara into the company of young novelists who really, really matter.

In 1950, a young doctor called Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu'ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. They succeed, finding not only that tribe but also a group of forest dwellers they dub "The Dreamers," who turn out to be fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile. Perina suspects the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle; unable to resist the possibility of eternal life, he kills one and smuggles some meat back to the States. He scientifically proves his thesis, earning worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize, but he soon discovers that its miraculous property comes at a terrible price. As things quickly spiral out of his control, his own demons take hold, with devastating personal consequences.
 

About Hanya Yanagihara

See more books from this Author
Formerly a member of the Vintage publicity department, Hanya Yanagihara is an editor-at-large at Conde Nast Traveler. She lives in New York City.



Author Residence: NYC
 
Published August 13, 2013 by Anchor. 385 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The People in the Trees
All: 8 | Positive: 7 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 30 2013

An instance of that rare subgenre of literature, the anthropological novel, in which Norton Perina, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, traces the early part of his life, when he helped both discover and destroy a lost tribe.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Carmela Ciuraru on Sep 27 2013

Provocative and bleak, “The People in the Trees” might leave readers conflicted. It is exhaustingly inventive and almost defiant in its refusal to offer redemption or solace — but that is arguably one of its virtues.

Read Full Review of The People in the Trees: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Katie Kitamura on Jan 10 2014

Power and its abuses are at the heart of this richly imagined novel, both in form and subject matter. The framing device brings up questions of authorial control, of editing and excision: the novel purports to offer the memoirs of a Nobel prizewinning convicted paedophile, Dr Norton Perina...

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jul 29 2013

Without making him a simple villain, Yanagihara shows how Perina's extraordinary circumstances allow his smothered weaknesses to blossom horribly. In the end, he reveals the full extent of his loathsomeness explicitly, unashamedly, convinced of his immutable moral right.

Read Full Review of The People in the Trees: A Novel | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Financial Times

Below average
Reviewed by Maria Crawford on Jan 10 2014

Last year the novelist told Publishers Weekly that, on completion of the book, she was sad to leave Perina behind; as a reader, I am relieved that I will never have to meet him again.

Read Full Review of The People in the Trees: A Novel | See more reviews from Financial Times

Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Anna Perleberg Andersen on Aug 10 2013

His findings have dire cultural and ecological consequences for all the people of U’ivu. Perina’s story elicits questions about the practice of science, its responsibilities and its goals

Read Full Review of The People in the Trees: A Novel | See more reviews from Star Tribune

Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Jason Beerman on Aug 30 2013

The People in the Trees is a novel that pulses with big ideas about moral relativism and human desire and greed...Through it all, Yanagihara’s transformative prose is so utterly beautiful in its composition that the horrors of the world she portrays become instead moments of wonder.

Read Full Review of The People in the Trees: A Novel | See more reviews from Toronto Star

The Maine Edge

Good
Reviewed by Allen Adams on Aug 14 2013

“The People in the Trees” is an absolute tour de force. It is wonderfully written and wonderfully conceived...a marvelous construction of fiction.

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Reader Rating for The People in the Trees
62%

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