where there is an alternate universe America and the girls have to wear a cooling suit.
If you are in the book world, I first have to say to you that I have never read A Little Life by Yanagihara, a book a lot of people have opinions on. I was going to read it and then saw where someone described it as torture porn, said a quick “newwwwwp” and deleted it from my to-read list.
Many people were excited for her follow up novel, To Paradise. Many have now said they were disappointed that it was nothing like Life. I guess it was a good thing I never read Life, because I loved Paradise.
Paradise is three different stories, one set in an alternate American past, one set in the 1990s, and one set in 2090s. They all have a NYC house in Washington Square in common, although they do have common names woven throughout the story.
The first story takes place around the 1890s in an alternate universe America where most of New England has broken away and become their own country called the Free States. In the Free States, you can marry whomever you want, beating our America to same sex marriage by 125 years. It is there that David is having his marriage arranged by his wealthy grandfather and, unfortunately, has fallen in love with another man who is not of his station.
The second story is set around the 1990s AIDS epidemic. It starts with David, who is living with his much older boyfriend, Charles. They live in what you come to realize is the same grand house from the first story. Charles is a rich lawyer, who David met as a paralegal in Charles’s law office. Charles is giving a party for his dying friend and David is contemplating his own life. You also find out that David is a part of the royal line in Hawaii and from his father’s point of view, why David no longer lives in Hawaii.
The final story is set in the future, told alternating from 2090s and decades before leading up to the 2090s. I don’t really want to give too much away about this story, but Yanagihara does an excellent job of painting a realistic future. Think cooling suits have to be worn because the earth is too hot and New York is divided up into zones depending on how wealthy you are or your job.
Something else Yanagihara is great at….revealing information. You’re reading and you want to know just what in the fresh hell is going on but you have to be patient because EVENTUALLY she will let you in on what she is talking about. It’s that “aha!” moment.
My favorite of the stories was the first one because I love alternate time lines; just seeing how America would be if history would have veered left instead of right. I wish she would have stuck with the alternative America for the rest of the stories, although it’s somewhat hinted at in the third.
If you are into epic, expansive tomes- around 700 pages, this is in your wheelhouse. I would recommend you spare yourself some time for it.
I give In Paradise 5 out of 5 cooling suits.
My name is Laura. I am a librarian and review books on The Alabama Take. You can follow me at bamareads on Instagram where I also talk about books. I like talking about books. It’s nice to be here. 🙂
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