The Overstory

The Overstory

A Novel

Book - 2018
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Jul 07, 2019

Engrossing, fascinating weave of lives supporting the plot line. Powers’ use of language and style are occasionally challenging, but to great reward. I’m recommending it to my reader pals.

ontherideau Jun 26, 2019

Thought provoking work by a sincere author.

Jun 06, 2019

Disappointing read. First 153 pages held my interest, but then it became tedious. The Ents in the Lord of the Rings trilogy were more interesting than most of the characters in this book.

May 17, 2019

Keanu brought me here.

Apr 24, 2019

This book won the Pulitzer Prize and it was well deserved. It's not an easy read and it won't appeal to everyone, but I loved it. So different.

Apr 22, 2019

I devoured all 552 pages on a short vacation and cannot think of a more timely message than the one this book sends us about our planet, our lives and our values. The stories that weave into a central theme are well chosen and developed although I liked some more than others.
Richard Powers managed to enhance my perception of nature and I'm grateful for that.

Mar 15, 2019

An impressive read, timely and important subject, creatively crafted. Highly recommended.

Jan 30, 2019

One of the most extraordinary novels I've read in recent years. I couldn't get into the other books I've read by Powers ("Orfeo," "Galatea 2.0."), but this blew me away. All the stories and characters are linked by trees. Seriously. Winner of the National Book Award and possibly the most ambitious and impressive book of 2018.

Chapel_Hill_MarthaW Jan 06, 2019

I found this book to be an impressive feat of writing, but one that completely failed to connect with me on the emotional level I was expecting, considering its subject matter. Five stars for the writing, two stars for my personal enjoyment of it, plus a few bonus points for its timeliness.

TechLibrarian Dec 03, 2018

I'm surprised that I hadn't more about this book, it's really an impressive feat, and both literary and compelling. I didn't know what I was in for, but in a nutshell, there are a handful of characters whose lives are affected in some manner or other by trees. Eventually their stories converge and branch. Along the way, the author shares lots of cool facts about trees and forests (not unlike The Hidden Life of Trees, except of course that this is fiction!). As a few of the characters join protests to protect forests, conflicts arise, many of which seem to be based on real life events. This book raises questions about environmentalism, activism, sentience, ecoterrorism, etc. etc.

Be forewarned that this book is massive! In that respect and its subject matter, I'd liken it to Annie Proulx's The Barkskins. Yet, I think many people would find it worth their while, as it's thought-provoking and entertaining both. The audio is well-read, though I think I would have liked the print version as well.

Nov 29, 2018

Partly my fault that I don't like this--I thought it was a novel It isn't. It is 503 pages of overwritten short stories. The stories are all the same: some people are good; some people are bad, and all people make mistakes, but all trees are good, and good trees don't make mistakes. Good book if you belong to the English Major White Male Novelist is King Club and worship James Joyce, Herman Melville, and Henry James; otherwise, it is a bit tedious.

Nov 26, 2018

Trees and people who have their lives touched in incredible ways by them fill these remarkable stories. Epic in scope but so, so beguiling in the telling.

What starts as individual stories, fascinating in their own right, interconnects by the book’s end. Just a few parts slowed down for me. Every reader will have favorite characters and storylines that resonate. I read the author’s earlier 'The Echo Maker' in 2005 because a friend recommended how the author blends science in his storytelling art. This book does the same. Such a talented writer.

Nov 05, 2018

Eh, it's ok, but nothing to cry about. The reviews I read of it (NYT, for one) were positively rhapsodic, saying it had a plot structure as complex and rich as the root structure of a forest of trees and... no. There is a huge amount of exposition of about trees, which is interesting for a little while but gets old fast.

Nov 04, 2018

Biologists use a tree structure to show the evolutionary relationship among all species on Earth, a tree of life. In The Overstory, trees are both a metaphor for life and essential to life, breathing for the planet, part of a connected organism of plants, animals, soil, water, air. We follow nine individuals across decades and the deforestation of America. Each is called to act in some way to halt the devastation; destroying the forests means the destruction of life on Earth. The book is beautifully written and inspirational, incorporating the latest science about tree behaviour and communication. Hopefully it will motivate people to change or demand change. On the downside, the book goes on a bit too long. It also neglects the wisdom and knowledge of First Nations, and only briefly includes them near the end, a very odd choice by an author who seems so well-informed and sympathetic to the natural world.

ArapahoeJulieH Oct 31, 2018

The Overstory reveals the inter-relationship of trees as social fauna which communicate and exist for the benefit of their communities. This novel takes on a multi-narrative approach of nine characters including a homeless vet, a visionary botanist, an engineer, a visual artist, a game developer and a grad student whose fates all coalesce around the timber wars of the 1980s in the northwest.

The Overstory is a beautiful yet tragic portrayal of human vulnerability and resilience concerning the fate of our planet.

Poetically written with a touch of magical realism, I’d recommend this enlightening book for anyone interested in the unfolding catastrophic events happening to our environment.

Oct 31, 2018

This book is astonishing.

The book intertwines the stories of a dozen of people in the US whose lives are somehow connected to trees. These beautiful and unexpectedly thought-provoking stories are the content of the first part, which would make a much better collection of short stories rather than a novel (IMHO a failed attempt on the part of the author). I especially enjoyed the story of a women professor of forestry who was way ahead of her time in science and therefore was ostracized by the field male big shots.

Oct 24, 2018

Man Booker prize short list.

Aug 02, 2018

I learned how much I only thought I knew of trees and their indispensable place in life on this planet. If you find yourself wondering what we're up to as a species this book goes a l long way in explaining that. Great characters and a unique structure made this in total a transforming book.

DPLjennyp Jul 26, 2018

Fantastic. This modern-day "Walden" is big and dense, but is not a slow read. The characters and story are compelling and propel this tree-perspective story along.

Jun 16, 2018

A very good novel about the interaction of humans and nature. The science in this novel seems sound and based on what I have read in the last two years. After reading it, I began to pat trees as I walked by them....and I now never step on tree roots that show on the sidewalks.

Jun 12, 2018

What an outstanding literary masterpiece! Powers displays not only his story-telling craftsmanship but his integral knowledge of tree life - cellular level tree life. He creates a story around various characters who instigate tree cutting protests and he examines the most intricate of parallels to their understanding of and experience with trees. The reader becomes fully conscious of the dependence on wood for things or for health and well being- books at a fulfillment center, Dorthy's lover who makes violins, and generational stories, trees planted in the back yard......Interdependence of trees "Everything in the forest is the forest". At times I felt it was all too much of a good thing but I returned to reading, wanting to know what happened in the end and to recharge with more of what Powers offered.

May 29, 2018

Early on in Richard Powers impressively ambitious and daring novel The Overstory, whose ultimate protagonists could be seen as trees, five-year-old Adam Appich is painting a picture. “The artist, born scrupulous, adds the cat,” Powers writes, and he might very well be speaking of himself, his work being so replete with richly observed or imagined and rendered detail. He seems to be able to make just about anything palpable and determined to do so.

Late in the novel, an older Adam, after delivering as lecture to his college students, is arrested and handcuffed in the classroom by FBI agents for unlawful acts he committed years before in defense of forestation. As he is being taken away, he looks out from the car:

“Someone waves to him through the tinted street-side window. He turns to look. Just alongside the idling vehicle, up through a hole in the concrete, a tree flutters, its leaves like the yellow crayon in a child’s eight-pack .…

“Adam looks and sees just this: a tree he has walked past three times a week for seven years. It’s the lone species of the only genus in the sole family in the single order of the solitary class remaining in a now-abandoned division that once covered the earth — a living fossil three hundred million years old that disappeared from the continent back in the Neogene and has returned to scratch out a living in the shadow, salt, and fumes of Lower Manhattan. A tree older than the conifers, with swimming sperm and cones that can put out a trillion and more grains of pollen a year. In ancient island temples on the other side of the Earth, thousand-year-olds, molten and blasted, close to enlightenment, swell to incredible girth, their elbows growing back down from giant branches to re-root into new trunks of their own. Adam could reach out and touch the scrawny trunk, if the windows weren’t closed. If his hands weren’t cuffed together. A tree like this grew on the street just outside the house of the man who ordered the bombing of Hiroshima, and a small few of them survived that blast. The fruit flesh has a smell that curdles thought; the pulp kills even drug-resistant bacteria. The fan-shaped leaves with their radiating veins are said to cure the sickness of forgetting. Adam doesn’t need the cure. He remembers. He remembers. Ginkgo. The maidenhair tree.

“Its leaves leap out sideways into the wind. The Suburban creeps away from the curb and noses into traffic. Adam twists around to look through the rear window. There, as he watches, the whole tree bares. It falls from one moment to the next, the most synchronized drop of leaves that nature ever engineered. A gust of air, some last fluffed objection, and all the veined fans let go at once, releasing a flock of golden the telegrams down West Fourth Street.“

Powers can also take a more playful tone with description. Earlier in the novel: “He looks out the many paned kitchen window. Through the Hoel Chestnut (a tree that is central to this tree-laden novel) the sky is so stupid with blue that it looks like it was slathered on by a primary-schooler with finger paints.” (Readers will note a recurring motif there.)

For all the book’s seriousness, rest assured that there are some solid laughs along the way. Young Adam Appich, lusting after his advisor in an academic psychology program and wondering if the interest might be reciprocal: “He steals a look at her. If only people, like some invertebrates, would just turn raging purple when they felt attraction. It would make the entire species so much less neurotic.”

In its ambition, and more importantly its achievement and its daunting implications, The Overstory is the strongest American novel I’ve come across since Don DeLillo’s 1997 Underworld.

mko123 May 27, 2018

Do your remember how, after you read Tolkien's trilogy, you never again looked at trees in the same way? Well, this book will do the same thing, only from a fictional and scientific point of view. What starts out to be a series of seemingly unconnected stories of somewhat broken and searching people, turns into a symphony of the healing, life-giving wisdom and impact of trees on our tiny lives. The trees have much to teach us. We just must stop and listen.

May 24, 2018

This book makes you think. It was slow to start but definitely worth finishing. I'll never look at trees the same way again.

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