Book Review: The People in the Trees: A Novel by Hanya Yanagihara (4.5/5)


I’ve also been putting off this review for a while….

The People in the Trees is an anthropological thriller infused with adventure, discovery, science, the ethics of science and — most of all — deeply stirring moral questions. In 1950, anthropologist Paul Tallent calls for a young doctor to accompany him on his expedition to the isolated island Ivu’ivu. The med school sends the student at the bottom of the class, Norton Perina — brilliant, lazy, ambitious and arrogant. Little do they know, this expedition will change Perina’s life and touch the world.

While on the expedition, Tallent, Perina and Esme — the assistant Perina detests — discover immortal life amongst the island people. Perina selfishly smuggles back a turtle he suspects of containing the ingredients for immortality and soon wins the Nobel Prize for discovering Selene Syndrome.

But immortality is not all it seems… And it is as quickly lost as it’s found. The concept of immortality is very interesting. And it’s been talked of a lot in recent years; it’s builds on the theory of telomeres being the key to cancer and aging. In the meantime, Perina’s personal life collides with his professional identity. Is a great man still a great man even if he is not good?

The People in the Trees is absolutely shattering. It twists your emotions, plays on your sympathy for the main character, Perina. In the end, I just think Perina was such a broken person — with possibly sociopathic tendencies. It’s really a sad story for all involved, especially the children Perina adopted.

The message I’m taking from the book is: life is not just about the material things. Life is not about who lives the longest. Life is not always about what’s on the surface. There’s things underneath, there’s deep things. Life is about emotional fulfillment, growing into your potential. Perina was very wrong about so many things…but one thing I’ve got to point out (without ruining the story) is how he provided for his children. Sure, he rescued them from a third world society. Sure, he fed and clothed and paid for their college educations. But that’s not enough to raise a child. Perina never thought about his children’s emotional wellbeing and fulfillment. He placed things quite low on Maslow’s hierarchy. Mostly, he didn’t think about what he could do for his children. He only thought about what they could do for him. What emotional hole they could fill in his empty and unfulfilled life.

As an added bonus, Yanagihara’s writing style flows beautifully. No other author could have described the landscapes of Ivu’Ivu quite as well. Yanagihara is a master of the writing style. Every word, every phrase, every sentence…just feels so beautiful, so delicate.

***eBook provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review

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On My Reading, Writing and Life Palette: Am I Overbooked For the Summer?


Reading List (28 titles I am currently too lazy to type up):

  1. 17 Netgalley books
  2. 5 library books
  3. 1 Litpick book that I should really get to soon because I want to finish it and then request a possible little gem of a story…
  4. 3 books won from Figment
  5. 2 books I ordered from Amazon

It’s the summer between high school and college. I don’t have a lot to do (except for all that paperwork and testing stuff I’m putting off till the last minute)…But it’s also the first time I’ve actually done a 9 to 5. Also, my parental units hold highly the concept of chores and family time. 

My dear friends, the lovely Inkspelt and the wonderful bluelazuli are both summer interns too (at different places)… But you see, the other day I compared my schedule with Inkspelt’s. And it appears that my parents are quite on board with the “chores” and “long dinnertime” parenting platform. So my free time every day starts at around 8 to 8:15. 

And my mother wonders why I read so late into the night. I need to! To keep my sanity. 

I’m also becoming very devoted to this blog, much like my dear Tumblr counterpart snowraindrops. This new devotion could be the source of my wavering presence on Figment. I’ve been less active on my Figment account. There was a time when, regardless of tests and homework, I’d feel obligated to enter every flash-fiction contest. Now my 8-month long obsession with Figment seems to be wearing off. Figment definitely helped me polish the conciseness of my writing, and quite literally forced me to practice writing “sweet and short.”

Also there’s the NaNoWriMo Camp coming up in July. Alongside my fellow reviewers, Inkspelt and bluelazuli, I really want to do it. I want to write again. 

Some of my art buddies are painting masterpieces, finding inspiration in the nooks and crannies of their summer minds… I need to paint, too. But also… I need to exercise, I need to swim, I need to go to the library, I need to volunteer, I need to get a parttimer, I need to see my friends, I need to organize my closet, I need to spend time with the younger sibling, I need to start multiple blogs, I need to enter contests, I need to submit to journals/anthologies I can now submit to now that I’m almost 18, and most of all: I need to write. 

What’s wrong with me? I’m weeks from turning 18 and I haven’t moved an inch towards that ink dream. 

How do I find time? By reading less? Blogging less?

Or perhaps it’s just a lack of creative spirit. I always thought summer was the best time for an aspiring novel to bloom. Perhaps not. 

This was an extremely erratic blog post. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think. Have you faced similar issues before? How do you writers find time to write? How do you shift into the creative mode from the “reality” mode?