The Overstory by Richard Powers
W.W. Norton & Company: 4/3/18
eBook review copy; 512 pages
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
Ma, Adam Appicj, Ray and Dorothy, Doug Pavlicek, Neelay Mehta,
Patricia Westerford, and Olivia Vandergriff. Their individual stories
are presented like short stories at the beginning, with a common theme
between them. Then in "Trunk" the characters begin to meet or join
forces, have epiphanies, or start their life's work. They are all
summoned in different ways by trees to take a stand to save the few
of virgin forest from industrial harvesting and environmental
The writing is exquisite and meticulous in this finely detailed novel. I
appreciated the introduction and development of the characters in the
opening chapters, which resemble short stories. This choice to introduce
all of these characters before the larger story took shape worked well
for me and I was pleased to then see the characters begin to join
together. The connectedness of
all things is depicted in the overall theme and in the arrangement of
the story. Powers includes information about individual species of trees
throughout the narrative. The term "Eco Opera" is an apt description
for this monumental novel.
It is an emotional novel and I did find myself tearing up or becoming
incensed at several points. The time span of the story serves well when
considering the growth of a tree. While the novel does not attempt to
persuade any one to become an eco-terrorist or take on environmental
activism, it does have some wonderful insight into how humans need to
realize that everything is connected and how losing parts of the natural
world, trees, could eventually lead to our own demise. The Overstory is a novel to relish and appreciate the fine writing and the message.
My review copy was courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company.