Since she began writing fiction outside of her work as the editor-in-chief of the T: The New York Times Style Magazine, a role she’s held since 2017, Hanya Yanagihara’s novels have been lauded by readers and critics alike. Her debut novel, The People in the Trees, was praised as one of the best books of 2013, but it was her sophomore work, A Little Life, that cemented her status as a major American novelist.”
Now a contemporary classic discussed in everything from college courses to Kaia Gerber’s book club, it won the 2015 Kirkus Prize and was a finalist for the Booker Prize and National Book Award. And although all 814 pages of A Little Life were written in a 18-month sprint, it’s been over five years since we’ve heard from Yanagihara on the book front.
That is, until now. Yanagihara will be releasing her third novel — To Paradise — early next year. Set in three different centuries, in three alternate versions of America, Yanagihara has told the Cut that her hope is that “readers will see reflected in its pages some of the questions we’ve all been asking about this country’s premise, especially over the past four years.”
To Paradise opens in 1893, New York, but not the Gilded Age version of history — rather, it’s part of Yanagihara’s imagined “Free States,” a place “where people may live and love whomever they please (or so it seems),” reads the book’s blurb. Against this backdrop Yanagihara tells a love story, one of “a fragile young scion of a distinguished family resists betrothal to a worthy suitor, drawn to a charming music teacher of no means.” We then fast forward to 1993 Manhattan — in a city overwhelmed by the AIDS epidemic. Here, Yanagihara follows the life of a young Hawaiian man who lives with his rich older partner, from whom he must hide his traumatic past.
The book’s final installment sounds like the most chilling. It looks forward to America in 2093, a bleak future Yanagihara imagines is “riven by plagues and governed by totalitarian rule.” In this world, she follows the granddaughter of a powerful scientist as she tries to navigate her life without him, including solving the mystery of her husband’s disappearances.
To Paradise plays on themes Yanagihara has touched on in her previous work—trauma; wealth and squalor; race; nationhood; and the righteousness of the powerful. They’re all matters that feel more urgent today than ever, and the author unites them through this trio of stories in what promises to be “enthralling and ingenious symphony.”
To Paradise will be released as an ebook and in hardcover by Doubleday on January 11, 2022. It will also be available as a Penguin Random House audiobook.