The People In the Trees contemplates the cost of scientific discovery and its effects on society as a whole. The primary character, Dr. Abraham Norton Perina (who is roughly modeled after the real-life Nobel Laureate Daniel Carleton Gajdusek) is a renowned scientist and a recipient of the Nobel Prize in medicine. His professional achievements notwithstanding, Perina has been convicted of raping and sexually assaulting his adopted children, a fact we come to know early on.
The reader learns of Perina's life history through his memoirs, which are presented by a close friend and associate, Dr. Ronald Kubodera. Kubodera writes a preface to the memoirs and embellishes his friend's words with technical footnotes. Viewing a life through two prisms, the reader is left to decide whether Perina is a good man who was simply misunderstood, or a criminal getting his just deserts.
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