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Summary

The number one Sunday Times best seller

From Hanya Yanagihara, author of the modern classic A Little Life, To Paradise is a bold, brilliant novel spanning three centuries and three different versions of the American experiment, about lovers, family, loss and the elusive promise of utopia.

In an alternate version of 1893 America, New York is part of the Free States, where people may live and love whomever they please (or so it seems). The fragile young scion of a distinguished family resists betrothal to a worthy suitor, drawn to a charming music teacher of no means. In a 1993 Manhattan besieged by the AIDS epidemic, a young Hawaiian man lives with his much older, wealthier partner, hiding his troubled childhood and the fate of his father. And in 2093, in a world riven by plagues and governed by totalitarian rule, a powerful scientist’s damaged granddaughter tries to navigate life without him–and solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearances.

These three sections are joined in an enthralling and ingenious symphony, as recurring notes and themes deepen and enrich one another: A townhouse in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village; illness, and treatments that come at a terrible cost; wealth and squalor; the weak and the strong; race; the definition of family, and of nationhood; the dangerous righteousness of the powerful, and of revolutionaries; the longing to find a place in an earthly paradise, and the gradual realization that it can’t exist. What unites not just the characters, but these Americas, are their reckonings with the qualities that make us human: Fear. Love. Shame. Need. Loneliness.

To Paradise is a fin-de-siecle novel of marvellous literary effect, but above all it is a work of emotional genius. The great power of this remarkable novel is driven by Yanagihara’s understanding of the aching desire to protect those we love–partners, lovers, children, friends, family and even our fellow citizens–and the pain that ensues when we cannot.

©2022 Hanya Yanagihara (P)2022 Penguin Randomhouse LLC

Critic reviews

"A future classic.... For those captivated by Yanagihara’s A Little Life, her next is equally gripping.... Ultimately, it asks the question: is love really all we need?" (Telegraph)

"To Paradise becomes unputdownable.... Amidst the worst travails and political pressures, the primacy of human bonds is irreducible, a truth that lies at the heart of this frightening and very beautiful novel." (Literary Review)

"To Paradise is a transcendent, visionary novel of stunning scope and depth. A novel so layered, so rich, so relevant, so full of the joys and terrors—the pure mystery - of human life, is not only rare, it’s revolutionary." (Michael Cunningham)

"After the painfully affecting [A Little Life] To Paradise gives us three stories far apart in space and time but each unique in their power to summon the joy and complexity of love, the pain of loss. I’m not sure I’ve ever missed the world of a book as much as I miss To Paradise now I’ve left it.... It’s rare that you get the opportunity to review a masterpiece, but To Paradise, definitively, is one." (Observer)

"Awe-inspiring.... The characters are so well drawn and the plot so well paced, I couldn’t put it down." (Daily Telegraph

What listeners say about To Paradise

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Wow, I can’t believe it’s over

I didn’t know what to expect after the roller-coaster listen of A Little Life, and doubted this would be as good, but it was. A very different story, I loved each part of it and wished the first two stories could have gone on longer as I was dying to know what happened to the characters. It was hard to get into the third part at first but as the story developed, I became enthralled with the experiences of each of the characters. I am left feeling bereft that the book is finished. Each character was unique and came to life, the narration was as perfect as it gets. I did wish there was a family tree/lineage map of the characters as I think the characters in different eras may have been connected!? But I found it hard to figure out if and how. Either way, an amazing book, please write more!

3 people found this helpful

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  • LT
  • 12-04-22

A masterpiece

The word ‘masterpiece’ is overused but in the case of To Paradise, it is an understatement. A novel that will stay with me for rest of my life, do not deny yourself the gift of listening to it.

Having read the novel in print and now also listened to the audiobook, it is the most exquisitely read audiobook I have ever heard. The characters are brought to life with a richness and depth that is unmatched. The performances are truly worthy of Academy Awards, should audio books ever become a category. A true gem.

1 person found this helpful

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To cliffhangers

Yanagihara has so beautifully brought to my mind experiences I’ve had but wasn’t able to articulate - what it means to be a family unit, what it means to be a family unit in a pandemic and how it affects your looser friendships. The world building in the novel allowed me to imagine and linger on details. Situations that seemed familiar sudden weren’t, and those that seemed strange became ones I knew too well. But once the world was established, and we settled on narrative arc of a story, suddenly the it all ended, and on came another brave new world, only for the same thing to happen again. Did it work out for the characters? Is it up for me to decide? Were the stories somehow linked narratively? Maybe one day Yanagihara will enlighten us!

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Splendid as only Hanya Yanagihara can do!

In Paradise is an epic journey which is so tenderly told and is simply splendid in terms of writing and the performances were just perfect. The story is in 3 interlacing parts and the last character Charlie will stay in my heart (together with her grandfather’s love) for a very long time. Hanya Yanagihara has a way of noticing and telling of the most ordinary things in an extraordinary way. I am desolate to leave this book and these characters and envy all of you who still have the 28 hour journey ahead of you!

1 person found this helpful

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Fantastic

I loved this book. it was thought provoking and scary in that the dystopian future felt quite possible after the COVID pandemic. Beautifully written

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Amazing

I had read mixed reviews but can absolutely 100% recommend this . Beautifully written and narrated.
I will go back and listen again … didn’t want it to end .

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Couldn’t put it down

I can never put down a book by this author, it would appear! Totally gripped, original and moving.

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Another masterpiece

With ‘A Little Life’ rating as my favourite book ever, I was nervous that my hopes and expectations of ‘To Paradise’ could not reasonably be met. But I was wrong. This novel is powerful, beautiful, sad, the characters totally compelling, the themes absolutely yet subtly connected and the performances of the narrators sublime. I am bereft that I have finished it.

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Half way to Paradise

Yanagihara knows how to build her story world. I was mesmerised throughout and couldn't wait to get back to this each night. Paradise means different things to us all and so she unravels issues around identity, love, grief, heritage, and health across centuries. Society may change but the fundamental human needs remain consistent.

Some readers may find the grim realism of climate change and epidemics a bit too much - so rich and persuasive is her writing - likewise, I found the repetition of character names a bit confusing and felt like I was making links where there might not have been any, but despite this, it's an incredible book that will leave you bruised and better for having read it.

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disappointing

this book never captured me, the idea is great...the different characters reappearing again and again in different worlds but I just didn't engage with a single character or care about any of their journeys.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 16-03-22

Brilliant and infuriating

3.5 stars.

I absolutely loved the stories especially part 3. I was hooked. Yet there were 2 aspects that REALLY annoyed me:
1. She used the same character names across all 3 stories/parts even though they were absolutely unrelated. I find this pointless and irritating especially in keeping track of the complexity if each story.
2. Part 1 and 2 ended abruptly on an absolute precipice. I was left dangling with no inkling of the outcome of the story. It feels unfinished more than thought provoking.
I wouldn't recommend the book because of these 3 aspects. I'm left feeling incomplete rather than satisfied or even dissatisfied with the novel.