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The People in the Trees

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3.67  ·  Rating details ·  11,578 Ratings  ·  1,839 Reviews
A powerful work of visionary literary fiction from the bestselling author of the Man Booker Prize and National Book Award-nominated modern classic, A Little Life.

It is 1950 when Norton Perina, a young doctor, embarks on an expedition to a remote Micronesian island in search of a rumored lost tribe. There he encounters a strange group of forest dwellers who appear to have a
...more
Paperback, 476 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Anchor Books (first published August 13th 2013)
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Popular Answered Questions
Catster It's intentional - the first 2 pages of the book are explaining the entire plot. The purpose of this book is not to surprise you with the adventures…moreIt's intentional - the first 2 pages of the book are explaining the entire plot. The purpose of this book is not to surprise you with the adventures of the main character, it's more about analyzing it as you see the story from first person perspective. (less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Kate Chloe, I had the same response (well not exactly as I don't know Gadjusek's work although Im aware of kuru), in that I found the novel egotistical. I…moreChloe, I had the same response (well not exactly as I don't know Gadjusek's work although Im aware of kuru), in that I found the novel egotistical. I don't enjoy books that set out to be 'transgressive', that is, writing really cruel, skin-crawling scenes in an effort to shock the reader. The 'allegory' about Western imperialism was so very heavy-handed...she could have given her protagonist even an iota of depth or a redeeming feature, instead he was cold, brutish, self-indulgent and cavalier about the people he studied. I kept waiting for the twist or the deeper character to emerge - no luck! I chose 'The People in the Trees' because a good friend had loved 'A little Life'. Very disappointed. (less)

Community Reviews

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Jill
This book should begin with a caution: those who are uncomfortable with moral relativism and who prefer to view the world in black-and-white should not take one step further. The People of the Trees is rife with moral ambiguity throughout, which makes it a particularly mesmerizing and mind-challenging debut.

A short Google search reveals that the book was inspired on real Nobel laureate Carleton Gajdusek. The book purports to be the memoir of celebrated scientist Norton Perina, edited by his coll
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Maxwell
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own-it, 2015
With The People in the Trees, Hanya Yanagihara has no doubt secured her place in my list of 'favorite authors.' Not only are her stories blisteringly original and masterfully written, but they point out so many things that make us human with conviction and honesty. When I read her second novel A Little Life, I was appalled and yet incredibly moved by the dark, disturbing tale she wove. And with The People in the Trees, her debut novel--and a powerhouse one at that--I am convinced that Yanagihar ...more
Catriona (LittleBookOwl)
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, school
TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault

This was definitely an interesting and unsettling book.
I wouldn't say that a lot of what happened necessarily shocked me due to the characterisation of the main character. Since we are inside Norton's head, as a reader you are almost inclined to sympathise with him, but he is so unlikeable and I didn't agree with many of his actions. But his story was just so captivating and intriguing.
Pamela Barrett
Jul 04, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I’m going to review a book, I don’t read other reviews, so that they don’t color my opinion. I do read what the publisher or editor sends out, and what the book cover synopsis states about the author and story. But in this case I wish I had read something more, so that I could have been cautioned about what this story was really about. I thought I was getting an adventure story about a young doctor and an anthropologist, who discover a lost tribe in the jungles of an island; based on a true ...more
Leanne
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read this year - complex and unsettling but so brilliantly crafted. I was both disappointed and intrigued to find out this was a fictional version of an actual Nobel Prize-winning scientist's life; on one hand, I thought it was such an interesting narrative and am a tiny bit less impressed to know that Yanagihara didn't fully come up with the ideas herself, but on the other, it's shocking and fascinating to know that this was actually someone's life.

I've been intereste
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Sharon
May 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There was something so wrong about this book. Reading it was like some sort of slow, pervy foreplay to the final #shockingnotshocking pages. I think I hated this book. I hated it but was simultaneously impressed with it.

Spoiler territory below (You be the judge though because it's similar to Lars Von Trier's end-of-the-world film Melancholia, where the opening scene is ...the end of the world. Similarly, all that is "revealed" in Yanagihara's story is written in her first few pages).

Newspaper c
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Lee
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
It had to've taken more than 18 days to read this. Read it after A Little Life -- author said somewhere that her second novel was a response to this one, the story of the abused, not the abuser. Her novels are like 10+-mile runs: they're worth it and filled with wonderful moments but also there are always times when I want them to end. I admire this for the steady descriptive tone, the lush island atmosphere, the invented vocab perfectly deployed, the dual unreliable narrators, the boldness of s ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: jo
Extraordinary. (view spoiler) This novel is remarkable in any number of ways - but in particular in the way it plays with the reader (at least, this reader) who can intellectually embrace the notion of moral relativism; yet for whom moral absolutism on some issues prevails.

The People in the Trees is
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Zanna
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to hand it to Yanagihara here for writerly discipline. Perhaps writing in the voice of an unsympathetic elderly man comes naturally to her, but crafting this into something convincing or at least artfully contrived is an impressive feat, and resisting the temptation to intervene in author voice wouldn't have been possible for me!

I suppose with whatever I'm reading I ask myself: Is this literature critical? Yanagihara's book traverses difficult territory, the dangerous grounds of child ab
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Vanessa
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Justin Evans
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Please explain to me why so few of my friends have read this book. It's a triumph of style--not 'voice,' not 'authentic expression,' but style. PT is, for the most part, the 'memoirs' of a medical anthropologist, Norton Perina. He is one of the great characters of this young century, and Yanagihara's ability to write in his slightly ludicrous way is an absolutely astonishing feat of literary irony.

The book's plot is glorious, as well; a little slow at the beginning, which I think is true for mo
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Meike
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, 2018-read
Dr. Abraham Norton Perina, a brilliant scientist, won a Nobel Prize in 1974 for discovering the Selene syndrome, a condition that retards aging - almost 25 years later, the Micronesian island where he found the key to what seemed to be eternal life has been utterly exploited by Western pharmaceutical companies, the indigenous civilization has been destroyed, and Norton himself was sentenced to prison for sexually abusing his adopted children.

Yanagihara gives us the complete outline of her story
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Yvonne
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been thinking about this book for a few days. If I was part of a book club, I would insist we read this and discuss it. Am thinking about starting a book club for that express purpose.
One of the many astonishing things about this book is that it is a first novel, written by a young woman who is obviously well versed in science and anthropology. Not that that in itself is astonishing, I just think it's such a big story, so well written and intriguing, that how can it be a first novel?
But t
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Julianne (Outlandish Lit)
6 Reasons Why The People in the Trees is Perfect

1. // It's a book within a book.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm delighted whenever this happens. If you're a little hesitant, fear not. This is no gimmick. There is no better way this strange story could be told. The book is framed as Norton Perina's memoir that he's writing from jail. The introduction, editing, and footnotes are done by his friend, Ronald. At one point, Norton Perina says about his life:

"...I have found that contemplating the events o
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Marjorie
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading this author’s second book, “A Little Life”, I knew she was an author who wouldn’t disappoint. So of course I had to read her debut book, “The People in the Trees”. Once again I was completely blown away.

This is the story of Norton Perina, a young scientist who is asked by an anthropologist, Paul Tallent, to travel to the island of Ivu'ivu to search for a lost tribe of natives. Not only is the lost tribe discovered but Perina also discovers that some of this tribe has lived for cent
...more
Elaine
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I should have written a review closer in time to having read this, but it's been nuts!

I had a particular interest in the book, based on a slight personal connection. I had a close college friend who was related to Dr. D. Carleton Gadjusek, the Nobel-prize winning scientist who adopted dozens of children from Micronesia, and was eventually convicted of child molestation and died in disgraced exile. That story provides the precise template for all of this book except the science. Anyway, I have a
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Carolyn O
Hanya Yanigahara’s The People in the Trees is the most disturbing novel I’ve read in years, and simultaneously one of the most beautiful.

The People in the Trees

Seeing the look on my face when I was most of the way through the novel, my husband asked, “Are you reading horror?”

“No,” I said, “but it’s pretty frightening.”

“Well, the title is creepy.”

And so it went.

The epigraph to The People in the Trees comes from The Tempest (4.1), when Prospero inveighs against what he sees as Caliban’s fundamenta
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Imi
Thoughts immediately after finishing:
I have just finished the last page and those who have already read this will understand exactly what I am mean when I say I feel shaken. I don't want to write too much and don't know yet if I will be able to write a spoiler-free review. I need some time to think. But it is so important you experience this book as Yanagihara intended.

After a few days recovery:
I am never going to be able to get this book out of my head. After having a bit more time to think, I
...more
Jean
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a debut novel, based on a true story which I found both fascinating and disturbing. As I began reading I was so intrigued with the writing and the story. It seemed so intelligently written and I went on this anthropological expedition to a remote Micronesian island, I was glued to each page. I could not put the book down. Then there were moments where things just got uncomfortable for me and I wondered if I was going to end up hating this book. This did not happen, and that, to me, prove ...more
Book Riot Community
I was a ridiculously huge fan of Yanagihara’s 2015 second novel, A Little Life, so I decided to read her debut. The two books are vastly different, sharing only a few similar themes. TPITT has shades of both Lolita and Pale Fire, so if you’re a Nabokov junkie, read it now. It also has two unreliable narrators, with one giving footnotes on the other. They are both pretty terrible people so if you’re down for unlikable characters, read it now. But as for the meat of the book, this story of a scien ...more
John
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book bothered me. It's story held potential but ultimately I felt its plot and it's characters (or really character as this is the story of one man) were left hanging on the tree never to ripen. More so though Yanagihara has chosen to tell the story through a wholly unlikeable, unpitiable and unsympathetic narrator. I get it; but also I hate this guy. I hated him for some 350 pages. I hated him far more after the plot reveal of the postscript that had loomed over the whole of the story. I t ...more
Neil
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, netgalley
"For it, after all, is a story with disease at its heart."

A lot of people start their reviews of this book by talking about the author’s second novel, which nearly everyone (including me) read first. I am slightly unnerved by the number of people who say how much they enjoyed A Little Life. It was compelling and powerful, but it was not, for my money, enjoyable. That doesn’t mean it was in any way bad - it is a remarkable book and well worth reading as long as you are mentally strong enough and
...more
Conor
I joined this site around the time that Yanagihara's A Little Life was just starting to blow up. I would mention that I wanted to read it, people would immediately mention that I should prepare for a month of public crying, and I patiently waited for the queue to tick down at the Brooklyn public library. During this interlude, however, several friends whose opinions about art and literature more closely mirror my own started to dissent a bit. It wasn't that they didn't like the book, it just fel ...more
Katerina
There was the forest we knew, but beyond it perhaps there was a whole other forest, an entirely different ecosystem with its own distinct set of birds and mushrooms and fruits and animals. Perhaps there was another set of villages as well, protected by the trees for centuries, whose people lived to be a thousand and never lost their minds, or who died when they were teenagers, or who never had sex with children, or who only did.

Главное, что я вынесла из этой книги -- ALL у нее получилась не случ
...more
Alena
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm having a very hard time thinking of how to review this book because my feelings about it are very tied up in how it ends and I don't want to spoil something the author lays out brilliantly.

I find myself in the position of acknowledging that this is a very well-written, interesting, thought-provoking, morally complicated debut, which I will not easily recommend to anyone. Why not? There are scenes of brutal violence against both animals and children, which are frankly hard to take. I came awa
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
The People in the Trees was on the Publishers Weekly top ten books of 2013 list, and it's on the Tournament of Books list for 2014.

It's written like an annotated memoir based on letters from jail, about a scientist who does research on immortality on a newly discovered Micronesian tribe. So the style is cool, you would almost think it was real non-fiction but its all fiction and therefore a novel. I even got tricked a few times into looking up books that are mentioned. They don't exist. Nothing
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Britta Böhler
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: femlit, favs
A beautiful, but also deeply disturbing novel.

Based on the true story of Nobel-laureate Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, a medical researcher and convicted child molester, the novel follows the life of Dr. Perina and his research into a (fictional) tribe living on an isolated Micronesian island.

What strikes you first is that the 'world-building' of the invented island and the various tribes is stunning, detailed and lively. From rites to language, from landscape to wildlife and fauna, you never have th
...more
Bekka
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Thanks to Edelweiss and Doubleday for early access to this title.

This is a difficult book to critique. Its told primarily by Dr. Norton Perina, a Nobel Prize winner who, in his later years, is convicted of child molestation. Its based on the real Dr. Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on the disease kuru among the native New Guineans, and was also convicted of child molestation in his later years. The book is an attempt to examine the mind of a brilliant but deeply fl
...more
Tanja Berg
We meet Norton Perina, Nobel prize winner, when he is being accused of molesting some of his adopted children. He starts to write his story of how discovered an unknown tribe after he has been imprisoned. The work is edited by a friend, and this friend leaves many tiny little foot notes. The tribe that Norton discovered in his youth was not any old one, they had a secret to immortality. At a cost, but nonetheless.

This is an incredibly well-written book. Still, I had many problems with it. The th
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Miles
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As if I couldn't love Hanya enough. She's a genius, and deserves all the high praise she's gotten for her first two novels, especially this one.

Hanya has said it herself; her best skills as a writer are structure and pacing. This novel is highly crafted to keep the reader engaged literally to the last paragraph. The way she explored using a different "medium" (newspaper clippings before and after a heavily-annotated memoir written from a prison room) draws the reader out of fantasy and plops th
...more
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