To Paradise – Hanya Yanagihara

To read the portuguese version of this review click here.

To Paradise is an extremely powerful and compelling novel. This is Hanya Yanagihara’s upcoming third book, set to release on January 11th, 2022. In the novel, there are three different stories, set in three different periods of time, 1983, 1993, 2093. The first half of the book is divided between the two earlier dates, and the latter takes up all the second half of the book. My favorite part by far was the third one, it was disturbing, compelling, partially told through letters which I adore.

This book is definitely a five-star read. Even when I had barely begun reading it got the feeling that it reminded me of the way classic books are written, and the way classic stories unfold. This is, undoubtedly, a classic for our times. If you read Hanya’s most famous book, “A Little Life” or even if you just heard about it, the gruesome devasting themes and descriptions it entails, you might be a little hesitant (if you didn’t like it) or you might be expecting the same tear shredding kind of book with this new one. I feel like it is my mission, having read the arc, to say that this book is nothing like “A Little Life”. I feel like that is a piece of good information to have on your mind when you enter this journey so that you don’t feel disappointed with the kind of novel this one is. It is a very special, particular, different, and at times frustrating story. It is what it is. You’ll have to take it for what it is. Whether it will be to hate it or to love it. For my part, I was adamant to think that it could be too close to “A Little Life” that it would be hard to repeat the same feat twice (and honestly is it really necessary to do so) and therefore it was with immense relief that I discovered the gloriousness of “To Paradise”. I confess, at times I was leaning towards a four-star rating, but I realized that I was just a little off from the true magic and greatness of this story.

I do have to commend the incredible and amazing work done by Hanya in her craft of this story, the sheer amount of work it must have taken to create not one, but three stories inside one novel, that have fully-fledged atmospheres and ambiences particular to each of them, and make them seem so astoundingly real, is really something that blew my mind about this book, and probably my favorite thing about it. I couldn’t stop thinking about this world, about these places and realities, their closeness and distances from our real world right now. This book touches on so many themes, and does wonderfully with each of them, from heredity to identity, to nationality, from sexuality to family, desire, commitment, to health and love and sickness, to control, totalitarianism to cite some of them (there is probably more). The weight is always imbued in the narrative, but it is done carefully and precisely, making the reader constantly question everything, not just inside the story but within our lives as well.

This book has left me staring at the ceiling thinking how I would go on after I finished it. It has not left my mind ever since, and I don’t think it will for a long time. The descriptions were so vivid and powerful I still see flashes of the story happening in my mind. I wish the stories inside “To Paradise” could go on forever. An interesting fact that permeated my reading experience of this book is that while I read it I was simultaneously listening to the original soundtrack from the 2014 movie “Interstellar” and now I have connected the two, which means that whenever I listened to the soundtrack, I remember scenes of the book. I think this even helped me to retain more strong memories of certain parts of the narratives, and especially the ambiance and descriptions of the places in the book.

Whoever has the slightest interest in reading this book, I urge you to do so. If you’ve never read anything by Hanya Yanagihara before, maybe because you think “A Little Life” is not for you, I urge you to pick up “To Paradise”. If you like classic books, or simply books that have good stories in them, I urge you to pick this up. You’ll not be disappointed. As for me, I will be here, still processing this story with both admiration and longing for it. Truly a favorite for me.

Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

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