“The People in the Trees” Book Review

Author Hanya Yanagihara spent almost 16 years writing “The People in the Trees.”


Author Hanya Yanagihara spent almost 16 years writing “The People in the Trees.”

Olivia Moody, Newspaper Editor

It is no secret that I prefer to read books containing romance, fantasy, and fast-paced storylines, but the book “The People in the Trees” by Hanya Yanagihara changed my mind completely. 

I was once told that there are two types of fun, the first type gives you an instant boost of serotonin, it is easy to identify but leaves little to the imagination. The second type of fun is identified after the fact. The journey might not have been enjoyable, but the outcome and the lessons learned were more valuable than any instant gratification could provide. This book is a type two. 

“The People in the Trees” follows the main character, Norton Perina, from his childhood in Indiana to his rise in the scientific field in the 1950s to his demise in the 1990s.  

 Perina is the sort of main character that really has no likable attributes and very gray morals. The novel follows Perina as he discovers an unknown tribe of people living on a small Micronesian Island that contains a scientifically groundbreaking existence. This discovery leads Perina to quickly gain popularity in the scientific world until he is accused of child molestation. 

The perception of Perina is foggy due to the unreliable narrator, one of Perina’s closest friends, that talks as if Perina is a God and everyone will be damned for questioning his morality. 

I can not lie, this book was really hard for me to get through, the plot was extremely linear and none of the characters are likable in the entire novel. What I did gain, is something a fast-paced book that gives you type one fun could never grant me, a new perspective of the world around me. 

This is the sort of novel that needs to be read incredibly intentionally. If you read it for the plot, you will gain nothing. If you read it for the themes and the message, your view of the scientific world will be changed forever. 

“The People in the Trees” explores the moral dilemma of introducing indigenous tribes to modern technology and the scrutiny of the globe. Can science and empathy go hand in hand? Are progress and discovery always justifiable to the outcome?