The Overstory by Richard Powers

The Overstory

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...

Details The Overstory

TitleThe Overstory
Release DateApr 3rd, 2018
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
GenreFiction, Environment, Nature, Literary Fiction, Favorites, Contemporary, Novels

Reviews The Overstory

  • Ron Charles
    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...
  • Neil
    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."And"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...
  • Jonfaith
    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 ...
  • Blair
    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...
  • Steve Donoghue
    In this latest novel by one of the best living writers, the world's trees are talking, murmuring to a handful of very different individual humans - murmuring strange and quietly alarming things about the future of the world. This is a writer who's not at all afraid of exploring a weird premise, but even so, this is a doozy. Here's my review:
  • Paul Fulcher
    The Overstory is the first Richard Powers novel I have read but he, and indeed this book, comes highly recommended (not least by my good Goodreads friend Neil) and this was certainly a striking if flawed read. The first part of the novel consists of 8 separate short stories (ranging from 9 to 33 pages) with the background and life of some, at that time, unconnected characters.In each of the stories trees play a part, albeit with very varying leve...
  • Venero Armanno
    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 directi...
  • Logan Farmer
    I can't stop thinking about this book. A sprawling literary eco-epic, The Overstory is the kind of novel that changes people. It's a riveting call to arms and a bitter indictment of our wasteful culture. More than this, it's an incredibly human story with a huge cast of rich characters that you'll never forget. Dense but accessible, Powers is a master of intersecting science, art, and spirituality without sacrificing plot. I pity the next custome...
  • Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
    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 ...
  • Dax
    I received an ARC from WW Norton through the goodreads giveaway program.It is evident from the very first page that Powers has an agenda with his latest novel “The Overstory.” Powers wants us to realize that we have a Midas problem. Human beings have established a culture of insatiability which will ultimately lead to our own destruction. “How do you win? I mean, how would you even lose? The only thing that really counts is hoarding a littl...
  • Eleanor
    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...
  • Bruce Katz
    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 categori...
  • Stephanie Crowe
    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.Beautifully written!
  • Grace Sanchez
    One could never fault Richard Powers for sparing any details about any subject or person in his books. Some people may find it overwhelming but I find it enlightening. Have you ever apologized to a tree because of climate change? Do you feel different when you’re in a forest or out in nature? Do you know people who have lived a life of intention in order to protect our planet? Trees, climate change, and their human advocates are at the center o...
  • Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
    So much that I absolutely adored in this. Moving and powerful and terrifying, but minor reservations are holding me back from 5 stars. Proper review to follow.
  • Michael Cayley
    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...
  • Jenni Ogden
    Richard Powers is an incredible writer and his early successful novel "The Echo Maker" remains one of my favourite novels. He is very much a literary novelist, and his novels are often not immediate page turners, but more stories that need concentration and perhaps the right time and place to read them. 'The Overstory' is no exception; its structure masterful, its overarching environmental theme held in the stories of humans and trees and their c...
  • Sandy
    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.
  • Kim
    How do you explain a Richard Powers book? The intense focus, the erudition, the present tense, the style indirect libre? The sentences that stop you in your tracks? The subject this time is trees, the giants of slow time who intersect with our lives, unknown to us. Stories of random humans braid together into a larger narrative as the characters become aware of the trees and their complex lives.
  • Adam Morgan
    A masterwork sculpted from sheer awe.
  • Kathleen
    Who knew that an epic as much about trees and their interconnections as about human ties could be so compelling or that the death of a tree could be so painful? This is a stunning eco-epic, powerfully conceived and written.
  • Allen Adams
    2018-04-10 has heard the expression “can’t see the forest for the trees,” but few have stopped and unpacked how bleak the repercussions of that outlook might be.We view each tree on an individual level, a resource provided by the Earth for us to consume. To our mind, no single tree makes a difference – an attitude that results in rampant overharvesting that ultimately destroys the whole. And to many m...
  • Lori L (She Treads Softly)
    The Overstory by Richard Powers is a very highly recommended, masterful, epic saga about trees and our relationship to them."The tree is saying things, in words before words."There are nine main characters in this story that spans over fifty years. The novel is broken down into four main sections, Roots, Trunk, Crown, and Seeds. The chapters in each section follow the main characters introduced in "Roots." The characters include Nick Hoel. Mimi M...
  • Oon
    Let me start with these set pieces. An Algerian woman did not receive French citizenship for refusing to shake hand with a government official. On Twitter, this story created a storm of outrage and opportunities for humor. One such instance was when a user commented on a picture of crown-shyness, a phenomenon in which the crown of the trees refuses to touch each other, creating fissures of light illuminating the understory. The user quipped, ”a...
  • Edwin Howard
    An epic story of nine individuals drawn to trees in various ways, THE OVERSTORY, by Richard Powers, weaves these lives into recent history and uses those lives to reflect upon nature (particularly trees), life's purpose and contemplates how much nature needs human existence and vice versa. Powers begins the book by providing a very specific history of each character and once each of the nine are established and we understand how they got to where...
  • Jenifer
    This dense, beautiful novel will change the way you look at and think about trees and forests. Richard Powers introduces readers to nine very different primary characters, and lots of equally memorable, engaging secondary ones, by showing in his opening chapters how their lives are shaped by nature- particularly trees. Later in the book, we follow them through the recent past- America from the 1950s to the early 21st century- and learn how those ...
  • Lucy
    Immense, mighty, intricately supporting one another; the trees in the forests, and the numerous stories that make up his powerful narrative.The Overstory is a complex tale, binding together the tales of a number of individuals, each with their own tale to tell, each connected to trees in some way, and ultimately all branching together. Each character is well rounded and beautifully written - the reader is drawn intimately into their backgrounds a...
  • Robin
    The Overstory is a hard book to review as, like a tree, it has so many rings and stories circling throughout it. "The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." This is a line one of the characters of the interlocking storiesspeaks early on. The Overstory is not just a good story, it is a powerful piece of writing that brings trees into the forefront of our ecosystem and how we ...
  • Cindy Sacks
    Don't give up on this book! It is long in length and wide in breadth, and was sometimes almost too esoteric for me to follow. But, think of it as concentric rings of the old growth trees it has as its main touchstone, and appreciate each for its experience.A series of seemingly non-interconnected stories, each one comes back to reference trees. This might sound boring, but far from it. However, be prepared to read, stop, be drawn back, read some ...