The People in the Trees

Thoughts by Hanya Yanagihara, Doubleday 2013, 512 pages

Challenge: TOB Favorites (coming this fall)

Genre/Theme: Contemporary Lit

Type/Source: eBook / Kindle-Amazon

What It’s About: Inspired by true events and real people, this story is told via edited memoirs of a Nobel Prize-winning doctor whose first ‘job’ out of Harvard Med was with an expedition to a previously undiscovered peoples living in the jungles of a tiny Micronesian island. What he discovers and how his life travels from there is one heck of an unsettling tale.

… by twelve incompetents (one juror, as I recall, was a tollbooth clerk, another a dog-washer),

These memoirs are written while he is in prison for sexually abusing one, or more, of his 43 children. He had on subsequent visits over many years, adopted all of these kids from the island community he originally encountered on that fateful trip. The one resulting in his being first to publish findings of physical longevity attributed to eating a previously unknown variety of turtle. Eventually, the island life is destroyed; the community in shambles, the turtle extinct and no fountain-of-youth elixir.

 At night I dreamed of green, great floating blobs of it, morphing gently from one shade to the next, and in the mornings I woke feeling beaten and exhausted. During the day my thoughts returned to visions of deserts, of cities, of hard surfaces: of glass and concrete.

Thoughts: The last few paragraphs will kick you in the gut. You know it is coming, but the when and what and how is gobsmacking. Yet. Not? We were given all the clues, by the monster himself. I will only say that I found the guy a monster, an ogre, an egotistical misogynistic remorseless abhorrent individual.

So, the writing. She is successful at world-building, character-development, tone, pace, all that stuff. I really did almost give up because I just knew it was bleak but my curiosity won out.

Rating: Four slices of pie. Leech Pie

Owen and I were gathering a bucket of leeches that we planned to bake into a pie and then give to Ida, the part-time cook, a sour woman we both hated. My mother was dangling her feet in the stream.



What’s in a Name – Category Botanical

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8 thoughts on “The People in the Trees

  1. Great review! I agree, even when you know its coming, the book is kind of a slap. I admired Yanagihara’s writing here a lot. I read somewhere she is also riffing on Nabukov? I’ve only read Lolita, but for sure the self-serving, “it’s not my fault”, tone of the narration is there.

    1. Oh, yes, I can see that. I would like to read another Nabokov, maybe. Did you vote for a short list of Faves? I just started A Tale for the Time Being and Skippy Dies is up for my April Audible credit.

  2. I would definitely not have picked this book for you! When I read it, it absolutely rocked me — I felt like I was reading a book for the very first time in my life. But it’s not necessarily dark and interesting in the ways that I think of your enjoyment of dark and interesting things. Did you read A Little Life already? Don’t, if not! It is not good!

    1. Lol – I attempted A Little Life on audio and gave up about 1/3 in and then skipped to the end. YES! I DID!! and read so many discussions of it that I think I got ‘enough’. 🙂

  3. I thought this book was so creepily well done, but after reading what everyone has to say about A Little Life I’m afraid to read that one!

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