In The Overstory, Richard Powers has created a beautiful tribute to nature, connection, activism, and home, and I was captivated from the first page. In this interlocking story with multiple time periods and characters, we are reminded that there is still so much to learn about our world. Recommended By Leah C., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A monumental novel about trees and people by one of our most "prodigiously talented" (The New York Times Book Review) novelists.
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 strangers — each summoned in different ways by trees — are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent’s 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 of — and paean to — the 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 ours — vast, 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 humanity’s 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. There’s something you need to hear."
"A magnificent saga....Powers’s sylvan tour de force is alive with gorgeous descriptions; continually surprising, often heartbreaking characters; complex suspense; unflinching scrutiny of pain; celebration of creativity and connection; and informed and expressive awe over the planet’s life force and its countless and miraculous manifestations....profound and symphonic." Booklist (starred review)
"The time is ripe for a big novel that tells us as much about trees as Moby Dick does about whales....The Overstory is that novel and it is very nearly a masterpiece....On almost every page of The Overstory you will find sentences that combine precision and vision." The Times (London)
"The Overstory is a visionary, accessible legend for the planet that owns us, its exaltation and its peril, a remarkable achievement by a great writer." Thomas McGuane
"[Powers is] brilliant on the strange idea of 'plant personhood...' opening our eyes to the wondrous things just above our line of sight. Memorable chapters unfold [with] many unforgettable images in a novel devoted to 'reviving that dead metaphor at the heart of the word bewilderment.'" Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
"This book is beyond special. Richard Powers manages to turn trees into vivid and engaging characters, something that indigenous people have done for eons but that modern literature has rarely if ever even attempted. It's not just a completely absorbing, even overwhelming book; it's a kind of breakthrough in the ways we think about and understand the world around us, at a moment when that is desperately needed." Bill McKibben
"An extraordinary novel....An astonishing performance....There is something exhilarating, too, in reading a novel whose context is wider than human life. The Overstory leaves you with a slightly adjusted frame of reference....What was happening to his characters passed into my conscience, like alcohol into the bloodstream, and left a feeling behind of grief or guilt, even after I put it down." The Guardian
About the Author
Richard Powers is the author of twelve novels, most recently The Overstory. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Book Award, and he has been a Pulitzer Prize and four-time National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. He lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.