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The Overstory

The Overstory

A Novel

eBook - 2018
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A monumental novel about trees and people by one of our most "prodigiously talented" (--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 of₇and paean to₇the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds.
Publisher: New York : W. W. Norton & Company, [2018]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780393635539
0393635538
Characteristics: 1 online resource (pages)

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Opinion

From Library Staff

Recommended by Connie and Rose

recommended by Lisa Neulicht

recommended by Wendy McLeod

"A novel of activism and natural-world power presents interlocking fables about nine strangers who are summoned in different ways by trees for an ultimate, brutal stand to save old growth forest."

Winner, Fiction


From the critics


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a
annegpeterson
Apr 30, 2021

Nyt

c
ChrisuL
Apr 05, 2021

I'll keep this short and sweet.

This book, overall, was really profound and "good" doesn't really matter in this case. For me, the beginning of the book talking about the North American Chestnut Blight was one of the most tragic things I'd ever read and never knew about.

That said, this book is a time commitment that will not read quickly. Definitely worth the read in my opinion.

JCLChrisK Mar 31, 2021

I've been waiting nearly three years to read this book, ever since I read an excerpt in Nautilus in spring 2018. I've checked it out from the library numerous times, and each time it came due before I could get to it, knowing it would be a big time investment. This time I finally managed (though it's now a bit overdue and others are waiting their turn). I'm glad I did.

As I try to with nearly every book I read, I went in with as little knowledge of its contents as possible, only what intrigued me so much in the first place. I like to be surprised and enjoy the journey of discovery. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't quite this. I knew it would be about trees; I didn't realize just how much it would be about people. The characters are imaginary, but it's a true story, based on events that have taken place the past 50 years. It chronicles how our society's collective awareness of trees and the natural world has changed during that time. Only it's not a singular story. Powers tells it through the lives of a cast of characters. The first big chunk of the book is a collection of short stories introducing each of them. The rest brings them together to a pivotal series of events, followed by a lengthy aftermath. It's a fragmentary story, regularly switching perspectives as it hops from character to character, place to place, piece to piece. It's built, in its way, to resemble the structure of trees, a community of trees, and convey their perspective.

I often wondered just what this story was, what tale it was telling and where it was going. Even as I did, I was compelled by it. In its quiet, seemingly random and aimless (at times) way, it was thrilling. Evocative. I didn't know why I should care about these characters, but I did. I felt their passion. Just as it can be hard to fully grasp the grandeur of trees, in all their diversity and variety across the globe, with over half their mass and activity below the surface, so is this book. It impacted me. And, maybe not for many more years, it's one I hope to read again.

v
vega6e
Mar 16, 2021

Interesting story, definitely for the tree huggers.

d
deborahvcarson
Mar 05, 2021

Like Greenwood. Trees.

IndyPL_CarriG Jan 05, 2021

A sweeping and intense novel about the lives of trees and several different characters, and how they intertwine. Beautiful and at times heartbreaking, read this novel if you love books with gorgeous prose and epic metaphors.

k
Kinesisca
Dec 31, 2020

I struggle to compose my thoughts about this book (what is it? a drama, a fantasy, a thriller, a documentary, a history lesson, ...)
A third of the way through, having been introduced to all the characters, the roots, I loved it and had very high hopes.
If you didn't already know a ton about trees, the revelations about forests and their interconnectedness and impacts are amazing, and these, along with the significant social and philosophical questions that are explored, have to be considered the trunk.
The quotes, excerpts, writing within the writing, and descriptions of nature are poetic and evocative, the beautiful flowers of the story.
The writing is masterful: sentence structure, vocabulary and the realistic characters and their relationships.
The story branches and we follow several branches out to the tips, but we aren't really sure where anything is going, and it just didn't go where I hoped it might.
I was left unsatisfied and not in the "wanting-more" sense, just disappointed.

r
rclane
Dec 26, 2020

A little emotionally overplayed and felt a bit self-important for my taste. I appreciate the wealth of tree metaphors and the vegetative narrative structure. It seemed at least one storyline could have been removed without negative impact to the overall storyline.

k
kerrydaleoliver
Dec 17, 2020

A complex novel with a structure that may put off readers of more conventional books. But bear with it. It’s more than worth the read. Just realize that it all adds up in the end to a very compelling realization that we don’t know nearly as much about our natural environment as we think!

v
voxlor
Nov 14, 2020

A great book. I absolutely loved it. I felt that the author should have ended it about 2/3 of the way through. But despite that, it was an excellent story with good complex characters.

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Quotes

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JCLChrisK Mar 31, 2021

"I never knew how strong a drug other people are."

"The strongest. Or at least the most widely abused."

"How long does it take to . . . detox?"

He considers. "Nobody's ever clean."

a
asands
Jan 18, 2021

one of my favorite books ever

m
m0mmyl00
Aug 09, 2019

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

m
m0mmyl00
Aug 09, 2019

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

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