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
Highly recommended to those who value the character=centric, plotdriven novel about important contemporary issues. Powers has all his stuff lined up and under control. There is of course a degree of ambiguity missing from the power struggle ; there are good guys and bad guys, which may possibly be the case, but.... The pleasure of recognition is here too from the dying off of the Chestnuts (beautiful wood) to the lightly disguised Judi Bari (which is a case of the missing ambiguity of course ; s ...more
Two quotes from different parts of this book:
"The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story."
"Yes! And what do all good stories do?" There are no takers. Neelay holds up his arms and extends his palms in the oddest gesture. In another moment, leaves will grow from his fingers. Birds will come and nest in them. "They kill you a little. They turn you into something you weren’t."
I should come clean at the start of this review. Richa ...more
The Overstory by Richard Powers is the most important book I've read this year. Probably the most important book of the decade. It contains life-changing, life-affirming, transformative truths about the relationship between humans and our natural world. Humans must learn to be still. We must be silent and listen. We must learn to hear nature speak. We must allow the trees and the forests to thrive and to teach us how to live in harmony.
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
Richard Powers’s “The Overstory” soars up through the canopy of American literature and remakes the landscape of environmental fiction.
Long celebrated for his compelling, cerebral books, Powers demonstrates a remarkable ability to tell dramatic, emotionally involving stories while delving into subjects many readers would otherwise find arcane. He’s written about genetics, pharmaceuticals, artificial intelligence, music and photography. In 2006, his novel about neurology, “The Echo Maker,” won a ...more
I can't imagine how to assign a "star" value to this book. I mean, I have no idea what 5 stars or 4 stars might signify with regards to a work like this. But I feel obliged to do something... This is exactly what one would expect from a Powers novel: numerous passages of gorgeous writing, complexity, overflowing with ideas and allusions, intellectually demanding, emotionally uncertain, occasionally utterly opaque, and deeply resistant to categorization. "The Overstory" (the title is a play on wo ...more
A beautifully written book with a strong environmental theme, centred on trees. The first part consists of a set of short stories of varying lengths in widely differing styles - a virtuoso demonstration of Richard Powers’ skills as a writer of fiction. The period covered by the stories ranges from the mid-19th century to the present, and embraces pioneer life in the USA, the great depression, US military involvement in SE Asia, the invention of the mobile phone, the creation of computer games, a ...more
Richard Powers is fast making his way into my favourite writers of all time (a permanently shifting category that at the moment includes A.S. Byatt, Sarah Hall, and William Thackeray). The Overstory, his latest book, is maybe his most ambitious yet: it seeks, essentially, to instill in its reader a sense of sympathy and identification with trees. That Powers actually manages it is confirmation that he is one of the most skilled writers currently working that I can think of.
The Overstory starts w ...more