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The People in the Trees

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The People in the Trees Cover

ISBN13: 9780385536776
ISBN10: 0385536771
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Awards

Staff Pick

A beautifully written debut novel. Based partially on the real life story of an anthropologist, the novel describes what happens when cultures collide and science interferes with nature. Though the islands that "The Dreamers" live on are not real, Yanagihara's story will have you thinking they are. This book is incredible; I've been recommending it to everyone I know!
Recommended by Amanda F., Powells.com

The People in the Trees has done a thorough job of rattling me to the core, and several months after reading it, I still can't stop thinking about it. The book has so many things I love: an unreliable narrator, explosive endings, secrets, unlikable characters, a scientific bent, cultural clashes, an arrogant hero, and ordinary life depicted realistically. This is a tough book to love, yet I do... and I don't. Rarely has a book had me so torn, but this one has, and in stereo. I want to beg everyone I know to read it, because I desperately need to talk through this amazing, crazy, bizarre story with someone. The last 75 pages are absolutely riveting; I could not put it down!
Recommended by Dianah, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"Driven by Yanagihara's gorgeously complete imaginary ethnography on the one hand and, on the other, by her brilliantly detestable narrator, this debut novel is compelling on every level — morally, aesthetically, and narratively. Yanagihara balances pulpy adventure tale excitement with serious consideration in unraveling her fantastical premise: a scientist, Norton Perina, discovers an island whose inhabitants may somehow have achieved immortality. Perina sets out on an anthropological mission that became more significant than he could have imagined. His tale raises interesting, if somewhat obvious, ethical questions; what can be justified in the name of science? How far does cultural relativism go? Is immortality really desirable? The book doesn't end with his astounding discovery, though. It continues with seeming banality to recount the predictable progression of academic honors that followed it and the swift and destructive attempt to commercialize Perina's findings. The story of Perina as a man emerges with less show but just as much gruesome fascination as that of his discovery and its results. Evidence of his character worms its way through the book in petulant asides and elided virulence, at first seeming incidental to the plot and then reflecting its moral themes on a small scale. 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. (Aug. 13)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

"The People in the Trees is a haunting story of moral absolutes confounded by a seemingly empirical understanding of the merciless caprices of nature....A standout novel, a debut as thrilling as it is disturbing." The Wall Street Journal

Review:

"The People in the Trees is a multi-layered novel. It provokes discussions about science, morality and our obsession with youth. But it's also a deeply satisfying adventure story with a horrifying conclusion." Chicago Tribune

Review:

"Yanagihara presents a cautionary tale about what can happen when Western arrogance meets primeval culture." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

The People in the Trees is a Nabokovian phantasmagoria, bound to raise serious, interesting, troubling questions. Hanya Yanagihara is a writer to watch." Madison Smartt Bell, author of The Color of Night and All Souls’ Rising

Review:

The People in the Trees is not a first novel like other first novels. This is a big, soaring, old-school, super-absorbing vehicle into another world. It’s a mystery story, an ecological parable, a monstrous confession, and a fascinating consideration of moral relativism. Yanagihara’s narrator is misanthropic and grotesque, yet simultaneously magnetic; her prose is dazzling; and her book is a triumph of the imagination." Anthony Doerr, author of Four Seasons in Rome and The Shell Collector

Review:

"This is an engrossing, beautifully detailed, at times amazing (and shocking) novel, and right up my alley: a far-off and beautiful place in the Pacific, islanders living to their own drumbeat, earnest meddling outsiders, and a sticky outcome — the Fall, with a lot of science and passion behind it, and an impressive debut for Hanya Yanagihara. I loved this book.” Paul Theroux, author of The Lower River and The Great Railway Bazaar

About the 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.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Benz1966, July 30, 2013 (view all comments by Benz1966)
I feel duped. I mean, I have a degree in literature, I should be able to identify an unreliable narrator from miles away, right? But the way Yanaghira began The People in the Trees, with those press releases... I mean, it was like I was predestined to take the side of Norton Perina. And you will know what I mean when you begin the book and also deal with the same, overwhelming evidence that is presented.

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. I found myself caught in pages of footnotes, learning more background information and, in one specific case, angry because I was being denied information. It's such an intricate, beautiful way of writing a book and it made it feel so real that I'm sure it didn't help with my whole issue of not spotting the unreliable narrator.

Finally, the subject matter. I've seen at least one review that treats some of the more sensitive topics in this book with condemnation. I think it's important to understand, going into this book where right off the bat, the researcher is up on some pretty nasty charges, that there are moments that will make you feel uncomfortable. It's also important to understand that, in the field of anthropology, it's important to watch and learn. We are so quick to place our own morals and manner of living on other cultures that sometimes we forget that we do some pretty strange things too. So I'll stop off my soapbox there with that reminder and just restate that this was a very powerful book about a very interesting progression of events. It had me thinking not only of how we tend to trample all over other lesser-known religions and rituals instead of understand and respect the fact that those very things were the essence of life for those people for centuries.

So yeah, this would make a powerful, powerful book club read - but I will also say that it will probably offend most book clubs. It's a mature topic, a mature book, and it really requires a mind set on acquiring knowledge rather than one looking to sensationalize small portions of the book at the expense of the rest of it.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385536776
Author:
Yanagihara, Hanya
Publisher:
Doubleday
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:
20130813
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
9.79 x 6.47 x 1.38 in 1.44 lb

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The People in the Trees Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$18.50 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Doubleday - English 9780385536776 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

A beautifully written debut novel. Based partially on the real life story of an anthropologist, the novel describes what happens when cultures collide and science interferes with nature. Though the islands that "The Dreamers" live on are not real, Yanagihara's story will have you thinking they are. This book is incredible; I've been recommending it to everyone I know!

"Staff Pick" by ,

The People in the Trees has done a thorough job of rattling me to the core, and several months after reading it, I still can't stop thinking about it. The book has so many things I love: an unreliable narrator, explosive endings, secrets, unlikable characters, a scientific bent, cultural clashes, an arrogant hero, and ordinary life depicted realistically. This is a tough book to love, yet I do... and I don't. Rarely has a book had me so torn, but this one has, and in stereo. I want to beg everyone I know to read it, because I desperately need to talk through this amazing, crazy, bizarre story with someone. The last 75 pages are absolutely riveting; I could not put it down!

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Driven by Yanagihara's gorgeously complete imaginary ethnography on the one hand and, on the other, by her brilliantly detestable narrator, this debut novel is compelling on every level — morally, aesthetically, and narratively. Yanagihara balances pulpy adventure tale excitement with serious consideration in unraveling her fantastical premise: a scientist, Norton Perina, discovers an island whose inhabitants may somehow have achieved immortality. Perina sets out on an anthropological mission that became more significant than he could have imagined. His tale raises interesting, if somewhat obvious, ethical questions; what can be justified in the name of science? How far does cultural relativism go? Is immortality really desirable? The book doesn't end with his astounding discovery, though. It continues with seeming banality to recount the predictable progression of academic honors that followed it and the swift and destructive attempt to commercialize Perina's findings. The story of Perina as a man emerges with less show but just as much gruesome fascination as that of his discovery and its results. Evidence of his character worms its way through the book in petulant asides and elided virulence, at first seeming incidental to the plot and then reflecting its moral themes on a small scale. 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. (Aug. 13)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "The People in the Trees is a haunting story of moral absolutes confounded by a seemingly empirical understanding of the merciless caprices of nature....A standout novel, a debut as thrilling as it is disturbing."
"Review" by , "The People in the Trees is a multi-layered novel. It provokes discussions about science, morality and our obsession with youth. But it's also a deeply satisfying adventure story with a horrifying conclusion."
"Review" by , "Yanagihara presents a cautionary tale about what can happen when Western arrogance meets primeval culture."
"Review" by , The People in the Trees is a Nabokovian phantasmagoria, bound to raise serious, interesting, troubling questions. Hanya Yanagihara is a writer to watch."
"Review" by , The People in the Trees is not a first novel like other first novels. This is a big, soaring, old-school, super-absorbing vehicle into another world. It’s a mystery story, an ecological parable, a monstrous confession, and a fascinating consideration of moral relativism. Yanagihara’s narrator is misanthropic and grotesque, yet simultaneously magnetic; her prose is dazzling; and her book is a triumph of the imagination."
"Review" by , "This is an engrossing, beautifully detailed, at times amazing (and shocking) novel, and right up my alley: a far-off and beautiful place in the Pacific, islanders living to their own drumbeat, earnest meddling outsiders, and a sticky outcome — the Fall, with a lot of science and passion behind it, and an impressive debut for Hanya Yanagihara. I loved this book.”
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