This book. Mind boggling. Described by critics as both brilliant and confounding…for me I’m going with brilliant. It’s not for everyone, but I was astonished. Here is my book review To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara.
If you are looking for an easy read…this is not it. This book is intense and sometimes horrific. But Yanagihara has a beautiful ability to develop characters that take your hand and bring you right into the story. Or stories in this case.
Because this novel is essentially three stories…three stories that seemingly don’t connect, but keep reading. They will. The three stories are placed 100 years apart; 1893 in New York City, 1993 in Hawaii and 2093 in New York City.
But none of these places will be familiar to the reader. An alternate New York City exists in this book. In 1893 it’s not in the United States, it exists in an alternative country after a revolution. It’s openly Lesbian/Gay friendly. Arranged marriages are common. History is rewritten through the bold yet quiet imagination of Yanagihara.
In the second story we find ourselves in Hawaii in 1993. Unrest, global warming, and family legacy in the island nation finds the characters searching for meaning. But wait these characters all have the same names as 100 years ago. What exactly is going on here?
And then boom. We are back in New York in the year 2093. This astonishing third story for me was gripping, and a bit too close to home. Pandemics, intense heat, unbreathable air, and a country in utter chaos. Here the characters are honest and emotional and so believable – even given the dystopian world they occupy.
With all this angst and uncertainty can this story end happily? The overriding theme through-out is hope; hope for the survival of the planet, our human species, family, love and happiness.
An extraordinary work, that may take some time to digest. But I give high praise to the imagination and beautiful story telling of Yanagihara. Thank you for reading my book review To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara.
*****Five stars for To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara.
Read last week’s book review The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
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