In 1950, a young doctor called Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu'ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. They succeed, finding not only that tribe but also a group of forest dwellers they dub "The Dreamers," who turn out to be fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile.
Perina suspects the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle; unable to resist the possibility of eternal life, he kills one and smuggles some meat back to the States. He scientifically proves his thesis, earning worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize, but he soon discovers that its miraculous property comes at a terrible price. As things quickly spiral out of his control, his own demons take hold, with devastating personal consequences.
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. By which I mean that the town, as I remember it, was exceptional only for its very lack of distinguishing details. There were silos, and red barns (most of the residents were farmers), and general stores, and churches, and ministers and doctors and teachers and men and women and children: an outline for an American society, but one with no flourishes, no decoration, no accessories. There were a few drunks, and a resident madman, and dogs and cats, and a county fair that was held in tandem with Locust, an incorporated town a few miles to the west that no longer exists. The townspeople--there were eighteen hundred of us--were born, and went to school, and did chores, and became farmers, and married Lindonites, and began families of their own. When you saw someone in the street, you'd ...
The wonders of new worlds are enticing – and when these are described in minute, mesmerizing detail as Yangiraha does, they make for an engrossing page-turner. In The People In the Trees, we are transported from the clinical, sterile environment of the research laboratory where Perina works, to the lush green environs of the untouched wild. Such is Yanagihara's power over the written word that the journey is vivid and atmospheric; we are with the expedition every step of the way.
(Reviewed by Amodini Sharma).
Full Review (1041 words).
In The People of The Trees, Perina and Tallent journey to the fictional Micronesian states of U'ivu and Ivu'ivu. While these particular islands are fictitious, the region of Micronesia, literally "small island" in Greek is composed of thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean, north of Australia.
From 1947, most of the nearly 2,500 islands that make up Micronesia were administered by the United States as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1986, the Trust Territory was dissolved into four constitutional governments: the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Belau (Palau), the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. All four have continuing political ...
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