An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. These four, and five other strangerseach summoned in different ways by treesare brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continents few remaining acres of virgin forest.In his twelfth novel, National Book Award winner Richard Powers delivers a sweeping, impassioned novel of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation ofand paean tothe natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, exploring the essential conflict on this planet: the one taking place between humans and nonhumans. There is a world alongside oursvast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.The Overstory is a book for all readers who despair of humanitys self-imposed separation from the rest of creation and who hope for the transformative, regenerating possibility of a homecoming. If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us? "Listen. Theres something you need to hear."...
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The Overstory Reviews
Richard Powers is a stunning writer and I have enjoyed all his books so I was keen to read this. It didn't disappoint. It's a book as big as the giant trees he writes about, and it twists and turns and branches much like a tree but with a central environmental theme, just like a trunk.
The two best things about this book: first, the characters he chooses to carry his message, finely drawn with interesting back stories and wholly convincing in their commitment and in the different ways that they ...more
It begins with the roots. Major characters are introduced seemingly with no connection to each other. But with the trunk, the connections become clear, and like the sap rising, reaching to the crown, branching out over the country, illustrating the connectivity between every person, every tree, despite differences. Richard Powers has done it again, drawing lines previously unrecognized. His books immerse me in unexpected ways, whether the subject is cranes or, most especially, music which he has ...more
Maybe Powers' finest novel, which means it deserves a place on the shelf of the most compelling American fiction of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The Overstory weaves together eight (human) plot lines, but more importantly, subordinates those lines to a vision of life as a web, literally a forest in which it makes no sense to think of "individuals": there's no such thing as a tree, only forests.
And if we--humanity--determine that we can afford to ignore that reality, we're, quite liter ...more
extraordinary book centred on our evolving understanding of trees and the biomes they support and the complexity and intelligence of the ecosystems they represent
the environmental scientific messages were well blended with a set of well realised characters and story-lines
first section reads like a typical great American novel, introduced to multiple generations of striving, driven families, tracing back in many cases to migrant ancestors, until we reach the modern day and the characters that are ...more
The Overstory is the second Richard Powers book I have read – after Plowing the Dark – and although I liked this a lot more, I find it equally difficult to talk about. Perhaps it's simply the scope of it: the cast of characters alone is vast, and if I start trying to write a summary of each of them I'll be here all day. The plot is even harder to pin down. It is, of course, basically about trees. Trees as the extraordinary, underappreciated, misunderstood organism and life-force they are. Tree ...more
Provocative and powerful! It gives one pause about how cavalier man is when it comes the natural world and how little we understand and appreciate the gifts offered by nature. Powers relates insightful tales of how a group of passionate individuals took responsibility for saving trees and the environment.
Well. A long rant has been percolating in my head while I read this overpraised novel by a writer I try over and over and whose work over and over fails to wow me, which is putting it kindly. Lately I've read a number of the 'what to do about great men/geniuses who are also sexual assaulters' think pieces that have been proliferating and what throws me each time is that the artists cited are in reality not a single one of them great, let alone a genius. See for instance Roman Polanski, Woody All ...more
The only thing that really counts is hoarding a little bit more.
There's a strange thread running through this novel. It concerns a psychologist and his work on cognitive blindness. The theme is hammered home repeatedly with resounding force and frequency: we can't identify with plants, thus we aren't able to recognize their integral position in ecology. Yeah, well, maybe that's why my focus suffered throughout this 500 page novel.
Powers remains one of the most divisive figures in my reading lif ...more