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The People in the Trees: A Novel Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Hanya Yanagihara's "People of the Trees" is a brilliant, cerebral, lavish, and psychologically-nuanced tale that transports readers on an mind-boggling adventure to the Forbidden Island of Ivu'ivu--a virtually unknown Micronesian island, 1000 miles east of Tahiti--a mysterious, damp, dark, jungle world where some members of a small lost tribe can live to well over 300 years old.
The book is written as the fictional memoir of Dr. A. Norton Perina. In 1950, as a young graduate of Harvard Medical School, he accepts a job as part of a scientific expedition to explore Uvu'ivu and study its lost tribe. Perina returns to the U. S. with a four of their oldest natives, called "The Dreamers," and a small sample of rare local turtle meat--the mysterious substance that the doctor assumes is the key to this tribe's incredible longevity. He spends years conducting extensive human and animal laboratory research and publishing his findings. Eventually, his research leads to a Noble Prize; it also leads to the demise of the Uvu'ivuan culture, the extinction of the Opa'ivu'eke turtle, and the near total destruction of the entire island habitat.
From the very first pages, we discover that Dr. Perina is an antihero. He's a convicted pedophile, a man imprisoned at age 71 for sexually abusing one of his many adopted Uvu'ivuan children. Naturally, he says he's innocent...but very early on we learn how easy it is to detest this man. He's one of those dangerous men who combine unrestrained scientific curiosity with an almost total lack of empathy.Read more ›
So The People in the Trees is a multi-layered novel. One layer is beautiful, beautiful scientific detailing of a tribe culture, complete with origin story and mythology. And the best part? It's backed up by some science. There's mystery and intrigue, pain and anguish, heartbreak and strange customs, it's all contained in the first person narrative of Norton Perina, the doctor-turned-anthropologist who is introduced to the "lost" culture along with two other scientists. One of my favorite moments in this book is when Norton describes the "lost" culture (quoted from ARC - may be subject to changes):
"And if one looks at that population, one sees that most of those "lost" tribes are actually lost only to the white man: just because civilized society stumbles upon a group of Amazonian people does not mean that those people are unknown to dozens of other, better-documented, neighboring tribes."
Talk about an ego-check. The post-colonial researcher in me ached to read more about this tribe (and, thankfully I can read and research something similar as this is based on a true story).
The other thing I really liked about this book was that it was a fictional book that read like a memoir, complete with editors footnotes. Normally, footnotes annoy the bejeebus out of me but not this time.Read more ›
Perina takes some of these "dreamers" back to the states along with some of the flesh of the turtle and substantiates his findings through them and a controlled study of mice. When he publishes his findings, pharmaceutical companies rush to the island and destroy it and the native culture. Norton gets a Nobel and the natives get the shaft. Perina returns several times over the years "ostensibly" to conduct more studies and with each visit brings back diseased, starving, unwanted children. He cures their diseases, provides for their physical needs, and enables them to adapt to American culture, but Perina's ministrations come with a price, a sexual price. The crux of the story revolves around whether his accomplishments outweigh his unspeakable crimes.
The People in the Trees explores many moral and ethical questions and since Norton narrates the story, we discover than he lacks any self-awareness because he deems himself to be a great man. He, like many of those with great power, is able to see his greatness but can't see the heinous evil that taints his soul.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have to confess that, having read "A Little Life" before reading this, I found one recurring focus a bit disconcerting. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Joanna Nichols
This book was a waste of time and very disturbing. The writing was tedious and many times I almost gave up, but the book had good reviews, so I persevered, hoping it would get... Read morePublished 1 month ago by penandink
I devoured this book, and would eagerly do so again. I haven't read a novel that was so captivating, totally engrossing, and satisfying for a multitude of reasons in.... Read morePublished 1 month ago by ldelamancha
I loved A Little Life, so decided to give Hanya's first book a try. Unfortunately I really disliked this book the characters are all unlikable, the footnotes are agonizing and the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Abigail Zeidler
Highly imagined work. Double narrator device works well. Character development not nearly as strong as her later novel A Little Life, but it is definitely worth a read.Published 1 month ago by Lee Marc Stein
The strength of this book is in the story, itself. It builds to an ending which is disappointingly anti-climatic. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Richard Weinberg MD
A great non-PC book. Brave and elegant literature at its best. Refreshingly honest.Published 2 months ago by Yuri
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