The Overstory

The Overstory

A Novel

Book - 2018 | First edition.
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A novel of activism and natural-world power presents interlocking fables about nine remarkable strangers who are summoned in different ways by trees for an ultimate, brutal stand to save the continent's few remaining acres of virgin forest.
Publisher: New York :, W. W. Norton & Company,, [2018]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780393635522
Characteristics: 502 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Over story
Contents: Roots
Nicholas Hoel
Mimi Ma
Adam Appich
Ray Brinkman and Dorothy Cazaly
Douglas Pavlicek
Neelay Mehta
Patricia Westerford
Olivia Vandergriff
Summary: A novel of activism and natural-world power presents interlocking fables about nine remarkable strangers who are summoned in different ways by trees for an ultimate, brutal stand to save the continent's few remaining acres of virgin forest.


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JessicaGma Mar 25, 2020

Be forewarned - It's dense and interweaves a lot together, but it's a really interesting tale of many characters woven together much like roots in a forest. I've never read anything by Richard Powers and found this book via a BookRiot article talking about Keanu Reeves who's apparently a huge reader - anyway, this was his most recent read, and it was well worth it - you learn the ugly sides of the pulp and paper industry, but also so much about the innate elegance of trees and forests. Nature is indeed a marvel

Feb 26, 2020

I enjoyed the first eight stories and was thrilled to discover an innovative style .
However, when I was half way up the trunk, the book “dropped me “ and I could not finish it.

Feb 23, 2020

This is a really beautifully written book. Powers weaves together multiple stories into one larger piece that takes shape slowly over the 500 pages, a lot like the trees that are at the center of what he writes.

Feb 10, 2020

Monumental, I have zillion (non)reasons to love this book (e.g. I enjoyed “Hidden Life of Trees” many thought boring.)
But to readers who were not radicals, or were repelled by the marginal civil disobedient, or growing indifferent to environmentalists noise, or were drawn to romance, fantasy, suspense, fact based and reason seeking... there would be easily an entry point found at root of one the characters or tip of the branching plots, to grow into and blossom out an all-encompassing tree of life.

I considered author's oblique or elusive (disagreeing with what I held) when living through some parts/roles, but more or less satisfied at the ending. A classic!

P.S. Our legacy proved to turn living world bleak, but the author is more optimistic than I have believed. A few exemplary solutions are presented from representative protagonists:
1. Patricia's science-backed approach, as passionate as logical, I'd easily side with;
2. Radicals (and associates), from Mimi's circle of life to Nick's "STILL" art, from Doug "Fir" learning in confinement to Andrew "Maple" voluntary sentence to "eternity", set no frame of action but a mind opening to see beyond self.
3. Brinkman's, could awake generations of mainstream?
4. Neelay's AI, speculative, where I have the most doubts to influence and guide the younger generation, also the most fascinating!

envy of living in a Tree house;
guilt for reading books made of trees.

Feb 09, 2020

I found the book uneven from chapter to chapter BUT the best chapters (most of them) left me in awe of the author's skill in crafting a story - and developing characters - of overwhelming beauty, pathos, and lyricism.

If you are open to having your mind blown by the selection and placement of words from a dictionary, as much as any book I know of, this will do it.

Perhaps it's helps that I find trees, and the natural world generally, remarkable.

Jan 27, 2020

"The best argument in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story."
We live in a world where almost everyone seems to have made up their minds about every topic imaginable, everyone is shouting at those who oppose their views and no one is listening. When the contentious issue of profit vs. the environment (as if it could possibly be that simple!) arises, our society has become starkly divided into two opposing camps, each convinced that the other has lost sight of reality and abandoned rational thought. So Powers has set out to tell us a good story. And he uses every bit of his exceptional skills and breadth of knowledge in doing so.
Ostensibly, the book is about trees: and about those who seek to understand, revere and protect them vs. those whose business it is to exploit them. But of course, this is a Richard Powers book so it's nowhere near that simple. Let us not mince words: This is a subversive book and Powers is hell-bent on driving home his message that the path of wanton destruction of our natural world is a march toward doom — not just for the trees but for the rest of the ecosystem and humanity along with it. Anyone who regards "tree-huggers" with disdain will hate this book; in fact no one of that persuasion is likely to bother reading it. So, with regret, I have to conclude that neither his "best argument" of scientific facts nor his "good story" is going to change anyone's mind. But that does not in any way diminish the value of what he has written.
Powers first tells eight introductory stories, introducing characters with no obvious connection to each other but he manages to connect the dots later on and achieve convergence, a skill equaled by few novelists today. And at least one of those introductory stories, that of the scientist, Patricia Westerford could easily stand alone, not just as a complete work but possibly as one of the best novelettes I've ever read. It seems improbable that a character as wonderful as Patricia was conjured out of nothing; more likely she was based on a real person who somehow touched Powers' life. And each of the other characters enriches the story arc with their presence.
Powers asks a lot of his reader. He stretches boundaries and asks us to just accept (or shrug off) some of his tenuous analogies
As with any good yarn, after all the scenarios have been set up and the characters and each of their dilemmas have been introduced, the action tends to speed up toward the end. And yet, at the conclusion, there is so much left unfinished. It would entirely make sense to me, after reading page 502, to go back to page 3 and carry on reading.

Jan 23, 2020

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to look at trees the same way again. The author found a way to make trees infinitely more interesting. I recommend having a dictionary handy when you read it, readers will find numerous botany terms. There's a modern-day fairy tale flair to this work. I really enjoyed reading this story.

Dec 27, 2019

This book was enthusiastically recommended by several friends, two of them writers. And yet subjectively, the book never grabbed me.

Dec 21, 2019

One of the best books I've read in a long time. One to savor, read thoughtfully. I will definitely buy myself a copy...need to reread it...want to underline, highlight and margin-comment.

Dec 05, 2019

Tuesday April 28, 2020 Conifer Book Club AND Tuesday, September 8, 2020 Evergreen Book Club

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Aug 09, 2019

Page 84 of the hardback: “...the greatest flaw of the species is its overwhelming tendency to mistake agreement for truth.”

Aug 09, 2019

Page 7 of the hardback: “Life is a battle between the Maker and His creation.”


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