Book Review: The Overstory

Jean Carr

I just finished reading The Overstory by Richard Powers. I highly recommend it to any gardener who would typically hold a set of values related to conservation, respecting biodiversity and protecting the natural world.

The novel is about nine Americans whose unique life experiences with trees bring them together to address the destruction of forests. Powers was inspired to write the work while teaching at Stanford University after he encountered giant redwood trees for the first time.[1] On 20 September 2018, The Overstory was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize.[2]

On 15 April 2019, it was awarded the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The Nature of Trees:

Trees live, breathe, and signal to each other, exist in a “social” relation with other trees and the biosphere that depends on them. Trees were exhibiting qualities of animal life long before the human story began and will be here long after the human story is over, the latter hastened by our suicidal deforesting of the planet. Powers knows, and a psychologist in the book says, that humans need “good stories” to be persuaded by scientists’ alarms, so Powers creates a band of varied and lively characters with back stories and understories to make his novel a “bottom-up,” as well as a top-down, fiction, one that equals his best work.

Here is the official summary:

“The Overstory, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work 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, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel 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. 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.”

Related Posts