The Overstory (Richard Powers)

The Overstory tells the intertwining stories of diverse individuals whose lives are deeply influenced by trees. From their initial encounters with nature to their passionate activism, the characters embark on a journey of environmental awareness, highlighting the vital role trees play in our lives and the need for ecological preservation.

Author: Richard Powers
List:  Pulitzer Prize Winner 2019)
Year of publication: 2018
Pages: 502





Plot Complexity: high
Language Complexity: high
Ideas Complexity: high

The Overstory has a moderately complex plot featuring multiple interwoven story lines. The language used is notably sophisticated and refined, employing advanced vocabulary and literary techniques. The novel explores complex and thought-provoking ideas related to nature, environmental conservation, and the interconnectedness of all living beings. It presents profound philosophical questions, challenging readers’ perspectives and demanding intellectual engagement.


An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. These four, and five other strangers—each summoned in different ways by trees—are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest.

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 of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, The Overstory 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, exploring the essential conflict on this planet: the one taking place between humans and nonhumans. 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.

The Overstory is a book for all readers who despair of humanity’s self-imposed separation from the rest of creation and who hope for the transformative, regenerating possibility of a homecoming. If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us? “Listen. There’s something you need to hear.”

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