Reviews for People in the Trees


Booklist Reviews 2013 August #1
Debut novelist Yanagihara tackles some ambitious and deeply vexing scientific and personal conundrums. By way of protagonist Dr. Norton Perina's memoir, the story unfolds of a "lost tribe" of Micronesian natives who have discovered the secret of immortality. At first anthropologist Paul Tallent and associate Esme Duff invite Perina along on what they describe as an investigation into a myth, but their real hope is to confirm the tribe's existence. After many pages of overlong, obtuse, parenthetical sentences describing the island's dense jungle, readers will be relieved when the team finally happens upon the fabled tribe. Despite the language barrier, Tallent convinces the leaders that the team means them no harm; they only want to learn about tribal customs. While the anthropologists take notes, Perina snoops around until he discovers the tribe's secret to immortality and, in time, exploits and abuses it for his own despicable purposes. Perina is a delightfully black-hearted protagonist trapped inside Yanagihara's unfortunately inelegant prose. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 August
Your guide to noteworthy debuts of 2013

Is there anything more nerve-racking than publishing a first novel? For authors and publishers alike, it’s a nail-biting moment of sink or swim. Here are 10 debuts from the year (so far!) that signal the start of promising careers.

THE HOUSE GIRL
By Tara Conklin
For fans of: Tracy Chevalier, Kathryn Stockett, Geraldine Brooks
First line: “Mister hit Josephine with the palm of his hand across her left cheek and it was then she knew she would run.”
About the book: The stories of a runaway slave and a modern-day lawyer intersect in a quiet, emotional and thought-provoking tale.
About the author: Conklin worked as a corporate lawyer before moving to Seattle with her husband and children to write this novel.
Read more: Interview from our February issue.

GHOSTMAN
By Roger Hobbs
For fans of: Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Dan Brown
First line: “Hector Moreno and Jerome Ribbons sat in the car on the ground level of the Atlantic Regency Hotel Casino parking garage, sucking up crystal meth with a rolled-up five spot, a lighter and a crinkled length of tin foil.”
About the book: This thrilling heist novel is full of nonstop action and includes incredible detail on everything from casino operations to armored cars—as well as an unforgettable, amoral antihero.
About the author: Just 24 years old, Hobbs finished the novel while still attending Reed College in Portland.
Read more: Interview from our February issue.

THE SUPREMES AT EARL'S ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT
By Edward Kelsey Moore
For fans of: Maeve Binchy, Terry McMillan, Fannie Flagg
First line: “I woke up hot that morning. Came out of a sound sleep with my face tingling and my nightgown stuck to my body.”
About the book: The 40-year friendship of three women from the small town of Plainview, Indiana, is celebrated in a big-hearted story that’s full of laughs—and inspired by the “smart, and interesting, and not foolish” women in Moore’s own life.
About the author: Moore was an accomplished cellist and college professor when he decided to try writing at the age of 40 (he’s now 52).
Read more: Interview from our March issue.

A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA
By Anthony Marra
For fans of: Téa Obreht, Adam Johnson, Jonathan Safran Foer
First line: “On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.”
About the book: Set against the backdrop of the Chechen Wars, an exhausted doctor fights to protect a young girl whose father has been taken away by Russian soldiers for a crime he didn’t commit.
About the author: Currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Marra holds an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and has lived in Eastern Europe.
Read more: Review from our May issue.

THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI
By Helene Wecker
For fans of: Susanna Clarke, Deborah Harkness, Michael Chabon
First line: “The Golem’s life began in the hold of a steamship.”
About the book: A golem, a jinni and the evil wizard that links them star in Wecker’s imaginative blend of Jewish and Arabic folklore. The supernatural characters are grounded by the novel’s detailed, vibrant setting in 1899 New York City, where immigrants and wealthy citizens mingle on teeming streets.
About the author: Wecker spent seven years working in the corporate sector before attending Columbia University’s writing program.
Read more: Interview from our May issue.

THE OTHER TYPIST
By Suzanne Rindell
For fans of: Amor Towles, Zoë Heller, M.L. Stedman
First line: “They said the typewriter would unsex us.”
About the book: Rose, a prim and proper typist working in 1920s Manhattan, forms a friendship with mysterious, fun-loving Odalie that borders on obsession. With Rose as its sly and slightly unreliable narrator, this suspenseful story will keep you guessing.
About the author: A former employee of a literary agency, Rindell is finishing up a Ph.D. in modernist literature at Rice University.
Read more: Review from our May issue.

THE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON
By Elizabeth L. Silver
For fans of: Lionel Shriver, Gillian Flynn, John Grisham
First line: “In this world, you are either good or evil.”
About the book: We know from page one that Noa is guilty of murder. Silver’s psychologically acute narrative probes the all-important question of why—and provides a breathtaking answer.
About the author: Silver earned her legal knowledge as a judicial clerk and research attorney for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. She also has an M.A. in literature.
Read more: Review from our June issue.

THE GHOST BRIDE
By Yangsze Choo
For fans of: Lisa See, Eowyn Ivey, Jamie Ford, Erin Morgenstern
First line: “One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride.”
About the book: In 1893 Malaysia, Li Lan finds herself betrothed to a ghost—and in love with another man. Her quest for freedom takes her through the land of the dead.
About the author: Choo got a degree in sociology from Harvard before launching her writing career.  
Read more: Interview in this issue.

THE FIELDS
By Kevin Maher
For fans of: Roddy Doyle, Jennifer Haigh, Nick Hornby
First line: “When Jack died I was real young, younger than I am now, and I said, in a temper, that I would never let it happen again.”
About the book: This ambitious coming-of-age story set in 1980s Dublin is told in the memorable voice of Jim Finnegan, the youngest of six in a working-class family.
About the author: From Dublin himself, Maher now lives in England and is a film critic for several papers, including the Guardian.
Read more: Review in this issue.

THE PEOPLE IN THE TREES
By Hanya Yanagihara
For fans of: Donna Tartt, Ann Patchett, Barbara Kingsolver
First line: “I was born in 1924 near Lindon, Indiana, the sort of small, unremarkable rural town that some twenty years before my birth had begun to duplicate itself, quietly but insistently, across the Midwest.”
About the book: Told through the annotated journals of Dr. Norton Perina, this sprawling tale has an old-fashioned feel. Perina has discovered the key to longevity on a remote island—but at what price?
About the author: Yanagihara is an editor for Condé Nast Travel—which explains Perina’s fantastic descriptions of island paradise.
Read more: Review in this issue.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 June #2
An instance of that rare subgenre of literature, the anthropological novel, in which Norton Perina, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, traces the early part of his life, when he helped both discover and destroy a lost tribe. Yanagihara does everything she can to establish verisimilitude in this novel, so much so that the reader will be Googling names of characters to see if they're "really real." The movement toward ultrarealism extends to footnotes and an appendix provided by Ronald Kubodera, whose friendship with Perina extends even into the sad period when the Nobel Prize winner was convicted of sexual abuse involving some of the tribal children he brought back with him. Kubodera provides a preface in which he vigorously defends Perina, and then the narrative is turned over to Perina's memoirs, which take us back to his Midwestern upbringing, his rivalry with his brother Owen, his graduation from Harvard Medical School and almost immediate hire by the anthropologist Paul Tallent. Along with his assistant Esme Duff, Paul takes Perina to U'ivu, a constellation of remote islands in the South Pacific. Perina becomes immediately fascinated with Ivu'ivu, an island that harbors a small tribe, a number of whom are well over 100 years old. Perina traces this longevity to the eating of an opa'ivu'eke, a sacred turtle whose meat is consumed in certain ritualistic practices. Determined to find out the secret of immortality, Perina brings back three Ivu'ivuian "dreamers" with him and smuggles an opa'ivu'eke into his lab at Stanford. Yanagihara presents a cautionary tale about what can happen when Western arrogance meets primeval culture. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 March #2

On an expedition to Micronesia, young doctor Norton Perina is intrigued by a tribe that, he believes, owes its longevity to the meat of a rare turtle. But smuggling out some of its meat nearly destroys his life. A hot debut; an initial read proved enthralling.

[Page 90]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 May #1

Yanagihara's debut novel details the life of fictional doctor and Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr. Abraham Norton Perina, who narrates his travels to the Micronesian islands of Ivu'ivu and U'ivu, where the secret to longevity is revealed to him. Perina learns that members of a primitive tribe who live to be 60 years old (o'anas) are given the privilege during a special ceremony of consuming the meat of the opa'ivu'eke, a rare turtle. He soon finds out, however, that there is an unfortunate side effect to living up to 200 o'anas. Upon his return stateside, Perina continues his research and regular visits to the islands, gradually adopting 43 island children who he is later accused of sexually abusing. VERDICT Yanagihara's work, which appears to be loosely based on the life of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, is fast-moving and intriguing, although it does darken toward the end. Yanagihara is definitely an author to watch. [See Prepub Alert, 2/18/13.]--Shirley Quan, Orange Cty. P.L.

[Page 76]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 July #5

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)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

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)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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