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
Consciousness game changer.
Trees compose the overstory on Earth; the rest of us lesser creatures and plants compose the understory. We humans in our arrogance and hubris designate ourselves as THE sentient beings. Little do we ken the emotional, intellectual, and social life of trees. We are only beginning to have the smallest inkling of how dependent we are - all of life is - on them.
Early in Richard Powers wonderful, monumental novel, there was this quote:
"That's the trouble with people, their root problem. Life runs 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
I'm one-handed this week, so typing is a difficult, hunt-and-peck sort of adventure. But that's just an excuse thrown out there; the truth is that I'm one-brained and I'll never be anything more than one-brained, and that is reason I'll never be able to share with you the amazingness of Richard Powers and his incredible multi-brained, multi-dimensional novels. To read a Richard Powers novel is to leave this world forever (know this: you'll never be able to sit through another tedious sit-com, an ...more
I don't know why it took me so long to read Richard Powers! I love books with meat and heft, that tackle big questions but can also zero in on nuances of everyday life. He really achieves that in the two novels I've read of his (the other is Orfeo). The size of this book may be intimidating, but from page one I was captivated by the stories of his characters. He introduces each one in chapters, that are in themselves beautifully crafted short stories. These are the seeds of his novel, which is s ...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
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
A brilliant treatise on the value of trees and nature, the interconnection between all things, humans (unfortunately, more often as destroyers than nurturers) included. The structure of the novel resembles something like vast root networks coalescing into tree structures - nine characters from opening stories that don't connect eventually do connect in a long section called "Trunk", and from there these lives take on a number of differing directions.
Powers has filled this book with facts and th ...more