The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

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4/5 Stars.

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I bought this immediately after finishing A Little Life because I felt compelled to read more Hanya Yanagihara as soon as possible. The People in the Trees is not the masterpiece that A Little Life is, but nevertheless it’s a triumphant debut novel from an incredible writer who has quickly become one of my favorite living novelists. I wish I had more to say about the book itself, but I think I’m going to have to sit with this one for a while. There’s nothing else I can really say about it at the moment that you can’t get from reading the back of the book, aside from my adding that this is a seriously disquieting, brilliantly paced exercise in moral relativism that tackles a number of heavy topics. Ultimately it ends up feeling like a mashup of Lolita, a National Geographic story, and Heart of Darkness.

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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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5/5 Stars.

Every once in a while a book comes along that takes hold of your entire being and doesn’t let go for a long, long time – the kind of book you actually mourn when it’s over. Reading a book like this is an utter privilege, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. A Little Life is without question the most disturbing and emotionally demanding book I’ve ever read, so be sure to heed all the warnings you see about it and prepare yourself to weep inconsolably more than once. If you’re willing to step into its world, though – the epic, sprawling microcosm that makes up the life of wonderful, tragic Jude St. Francis and the people who surround him – the reward is incredible. This is a brutal, harrowing, painful, devastating book that goes to the darkest of places; yet somehow, ultimately, it’s about beauty and goodness, about friendship and love, about what makes a life meaningful.