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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The People in the Trees: A Novel

Ooooh eeemmmm geeee. I just finished The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara and I am absolutely astounded--simply floored

Norton Perina is about to graduate medical school when he is offered to join the anthropologist Paul Tallent on a trip to find a lost people on the island of Ivu'ivu. Not only do they find what they seek, but Norton also makes a discovery that will change his life--the secret to immortality. Over the next decade, he finds proof that eating a specific turtle on the island halts aging, he wins a Nobel Prize for his work, and over time he adopts over 25 children from the island, taking them home to raise. His life comes crashing down, however, when one of his children accuses him of the ultimate sin.

This book was jaw-dropping. You may think you know the truth, but you have no idea. The thing is, Yanagihara never actually leads you in any specific direction; he tells you a story and you make assumptions based on your own cognitive framework. Then you read the last chapter and your world will be completely rocked. Everything falls into place, makes sense, and makes you question everything you ever believed.

This book reminded me of those in the "whoa" genre; I was lead to believe one thing while being given evidence that changed only when given the absolute truth. This book was truly incredible, and I raced through the first 100 pages and then the last 50 in complete and utter disbelief. The story is told in a semi-epistolary form; Norton is writing letters to his protege from jail, telling him the story of his life that led him to this point. It is somewhat first-person, but footnotes interrupt the narrative from the protege who put together the book, making some of it second- and third-person. It is fascinating, wild, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it. 

I had a range of emotions with this book, and the ending particularly floored me. It is well worth the read if you love a well-told story, if you want to just have the rug pulled out from under you, and/or if you love anthropology. I love all of the above, but most importantly is a story that hooks me and makes my eyes bug out of my head when it throws me a curve ball. This was it.

Kindle version on the left, hard copy on the right.

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