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.