The Overstory: A Novel

by Richard Powers

Hardcover, 2018

Call number




W. W. Norton & Company (2018), 512 pages


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 to 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? -- from dust jacket.… (more)

Media reviews

“Literary fiction has largely become co-opted by that belief that meaning is an entirely personal thing,” Powers says. “It’s embraced the idea that life is primarily a struggle of the individual psyche to come to terms with itself. Consequently, it’s become a commodity like a wood chipper, or any other thing that can be rated in terms of utility.” [...] “I want literature to be something other than it is today,” Powers says. “There was a time when our myths and legends and stories were about something greater than individual well-being. "
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Acquiring tree consciousness, a precondition for learning how to live here on Earth, means learning what things grow and thrive here, independently of us. We are phenomenally bad at experiencing, estimating, and conceiving of time. Our brains are shaped to pay attention to rapid movements against stable backgrounds, and we’re almost blind to the slower, broader background drift. The technologies that we have built to defeat time—writing and recording and photographing and filming—can impair our memory (as Socrates feared) and collapse us even more densely into what psychologists call the “specious present,” which seems to get shorter all the time. Plants’ memory and sense of time is utterly alien to us. It’s almost impossible for a person to wrap her head around the idea that there are bristlecone pines in the White Mountains of California that have been slowly dying since before humans invented writing.

Library's review

"Oh, that's that book about trees, right?" Ah, yes, but so much more. This is one of those "Great American Novels" that captures a wide swath and part of the essence of this country (with some notable parts missing, but we'll give that an understanding pass for now--one novel can only do so much). The trees, as sentient beings, form the core structure, with nine main characters whose generational stories weave with each other and their own unique relationships with trees, and provide a retelling of the U.S. environmental movement in the late 20th Century (following through with their lives up to present time). As the stories unfold and create a profound sense of interconnection (with each other and with the trees), there is a mixed feeling of doom and hope. May we all listen just a bit more closely. (Brian)… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member browner56
Three generations of an Iowa family has been taking monthly pictures of a chestnut tree in their yard for almost a century, although they can no longer remember why. The daughter of a Chinese immigrant must carry on after her father commits suicide under the crumbling mulberry in the family’s yard. A socially awkward Illinois boy grows up with the maple tree planted to commemorate his birth as his only constant companion. A Minnesota couple on their first date audition for an amateur production of Macbeth and fall in love while the oaks of Birnam Wood march to Dunsinane. Near the end of the Vietnam war, a serviceman ejects from his burning plane only to have his plunge broken—and his life saved—by the branches of a banyan tree. In California, a paraplegic computer programmer finds inspiration for his next project while staring at the exotic grove on the campus where he works. A botanist finds her way back from professional disgrace in the Oregon woods amongst the Douglas firs she loves so much.

What is the common theme connecting each of these stories? Trees, of course! But then saying that Richard Power’s earnest and impassioned novel The Overstory is about trees is like saying that Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is about deep sea fishing: it is a true statement that misses the real point. Indeed, far more than being a simple descriptive exercise about how trees function, this book is nothing short of a deeply felt plea to save one of the world’s oldest and most vital natural resources from the man-made threats they face. To be sure, this is story-telling; each of the preceding narrative threads coalesce in various ways through another involving a college girl who is electrocuted but called back to life by “beings of light” to save the ancient forests from being destroyed in the name of economic expedience. However, it is also fiction that has been written with such an overt environmental agenda that it creates a somewhat confusing sense of purpose for the reader.

Powers is a writer that I really admire, having read all of his previous novels over the years. And while I did enjoy reading The Overstory as well, I did not find it to be nearly as compelling as the best of his previous work (e.g., The Goldbug Variations, The Time of Our Singing). Without question, this book has all of his usual flourishes: intricate and intellectually engaging storylines, sympathetic and fully imagined characters who fight the good fight, brilliant use of language. This time, though, the underlying “man vs. nature” message was delivered in such a heavy-handed manner that it overwhelmed any other nuances that the multiple woven tales might have offered. Dialogues between characters, usually so realistic in the author’s work, here often seemed contrived, as if entire conversations were really just setups to deliver a memorable punch line about the power and majesty of trees. Also, I found the eco-terrorism plot that drives much of the narrative to be over-the-top and unrealistic; it may just have been the most convenient way to promote the book’s true cause. So, while I definitely learned a lot from this novel, it did not affect me quite as deeply as the author probably hoped.
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LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
In an interview, Richard Powers stated about The Overstory, "The whole book is a simple question: What would it take to make you give the unquestioning sacredness that you give to humanity to other things." Like many of his books, The Overstory contains a healthy dose of science, in this case ecology and the destruction of the planet by humans, but don't let that turn you off--there are unique and relatable characters, a compelling, page-turning plot, and it all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.

The book begins with short-story length chapters each introducing one of the nine main characters. They are diverse and very real, but we are left to wonder how Powers is going to bring them all together. As the authorial voice states of the characters, "These people are nothing to Patty {one of the characters}. And yet their lives have long been connected, deep underground. Their kinship will work like an unfolding book. The past always becomes clearer in the future."

In the body of the novel, in chapters titled Trunk, Crown and Seeds, the characters converge, mostly around environmental activism, then separate and their lives go on. So yes, it's all connected with trees and forests, and it is told in magnificent prose. There's a lot of science here, but it never intrudes in the novel, and the focus is on the characters and their growth.

Powers is one of my favorite authors, although I haven't felt that his several most recent books are as good as some of his earlier books. He is a MacArthur genius, has won numerous literary prizes, always has something important to say, and always says it in a unique way. After reading this book, all I can say is:

I will never look at a tree in the same way again. Everyone should read this book.

5 stars
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LibraryThing member EBT1002
This is a brilliant novel. Set over time and following several families with some connection to trees, it explores the intersectionality of all life and lives: trees, humans, the earth. Some of the final (or almost final) members of the families come together but not all; part of Powers' brilliance is his success at creating connection even where one does not overtly exist. He clearly did a tremendous amount of research and I learned about biology and ecology even while engrossed in the characters' stories. His descriptions of the deep forests of the Pacific Northwest were perfectly evocative; I know those forests well and he captured their beauty and charm. The stories are compelling and the writing beautiful, the emotional impact is lasting. I finished it almost a week ago and I still feel like I am viewing the world differently. I've long believed in climate change but Powers weaves the fact of climate change into and through his characters' lives and established an essentialism that is, for me, profound. It's not just that climate change is happening; it's that, well, climate change is happening. Powers' novel is the first I've read that so effectively layers the story over that inevitability.… (more)
LibraryThing member richardderus
The sections of the book are Roots, Trunk, Crown, and Seeds. There are nine characters and an indeterminate (meaning I couldn't keep track, they all sounded the same to me) number of trees. What does it mean to be a tree?

This is a philosophical question up there with "why is there air?" and I, like Bill Cosby fifty-plus years ago, answer, "I dunno, to fill up basketballs?" My eyes rolled so far back that I saw my brain when I read, "We all travel the Milky Way together, trees and men," and lemme tell ya was I tempted to slip this back into the return slot at the library right there and then. I persevered, however. Then an awful thing happens to Nick, whereupon he observes:
When he looks up, it’s into the branches of the sentinel tree, lone, huge, fractal, and bare against the drifts, lifting its lower limbs and shrugging its ample globe. All its profligate twigs click in the breeze as if this moment, too, so insignificant, so transitory, will be written into its rings and prayed over by branches that wave their semaphore against the bluest of midwestern winter skies.
Oh dear god. But wait! There's MORE:
You and the tree in your back yard came from a common ancestor. A billion and a half years ago, the two of you parted ways. But even now, after an immense journey in separate directions that tree and you share a quarter of your genes.
Patricia, an ex-forest ranger, writes this in a book about how close to Gawd she gets whenever she's around trees.

I'm sorry, y'all who liked it, but my tree-pollen allergy blew up wicked bad and I had streaming eyes and a clogged nose by midway through. I tried not to let my inner Nelson Muntz get loose but, as you see, I failed. Pullet Surprise winner or no, this was something I found sophomoric and facile and plain old clumsy.

I'll go now.
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LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
Richard Powers's latest novel begins with several chapters that read like short stories in which a person's connection to a specific kind of tree is explored. This part of the novel is excellent. From there, Powers widens the story and the various characters interact in different ways as each one reaches the conclusion that saving the trees is important. But the action they end up taking has deadly results.

This is a big book, both in scope and in size. The environmental issues Powers addresses are urgent and important. And a theme of this novel is how the only thing that can change minds is a good story. This is pointed out more than once, in increasingly ham-fisted ways. Unfortunately, this is not that story.

This story is bloated and overwrought. There isn't a nuance or a speck of humor to be found. And we'll leave Powers's skill at portraying women alone except to say that one woman is described using the words of a One Direction song.

I regret the hours spent reading this novel.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
5640 The Overstory A Novel by Richard Powers (read 21 Jul 2019) (Pulitzer fiction prize in 2019) With my reading of this book I can again say I have read every book which has won the Pulitzer prize for fiction--by my count 93 books. Included in that group are many great books, such as the winner for 1947, All the King's Men, which I read on 21 Sep 1958, and the winner for 1961, To Kill a Mockingbird, which I read on 8 May 1961, and the winner for 1975, The Killer Angels, which I read on 11 May 1981. And many others. But lately I find such winners disappointments. This year The Overstory won so I have now read it. I found it really a chore to read. It tells of people who seek to prevent the cutting down of trees, which I can see as an aim which might be sought. But the book is loaded with extravagant and hyperbolic language which I found extremely off=putting. I could not admire people sitting 200 feet in the air atop a tree as anything a sensible person would do. I thought there surely were better things to do to try to save trees and thought action in court would be interesting but the court action is passed over with little explanation . So I read the over 500 pages in the book and was surely glad to reach the last page. As I read I thought how great it would be to be reading something more sensible and meaningful. I hope next year the Pulitzer prize for fiction will be given to fiction more grounded in reality.… (more)
LibraryThing member angiestahl
Picked this up because it shortlist for the Booker, even though Bookers are sometimes hit and miss with me.

Love the idea/concept of the book - that trees are sentient beings that communicate with each other and sometimes with people with the ability to listen. I appreciate that it's found readers who love and connect with it.

But. While I like a book that makes me think, to me, this one crossed the line to pretentiousness. It's weighty in its self-importance and bogged by eco-preachiness to the point of becoming a bore. A couple hundy pages in, it felt like self-flagellation to continue. I moved on.
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LibraryThing member chrisblocker
What is propaganda? I'd define propaganda as the dispersal of information that lacks objectivity in order to push an agenda. Modern society adds a negative connotation to the word: propaganda is the work of a sinister force—but this isn't the case. One can place the propaganda label on something they themselves support. The Overstory is propaganda, and though I love trees and agree with many of the sentiments expressed in this novel, such blatant eco-grandstanding has no place in my fiction.

As a novel, The Overstory is most impressive at the beginning. It is then when the stories are disparate, and yes, this means it feels more like a collection of short stories, but they were really good short stories. When I think back on this 500-page behemoth, it is these stories that I easily recall. These stories show a pivotal moment in each character's life, many at a young age, a moment that is genuine and often heart-wrenching. It is within these first hundred pages that I see Richard Powers' strengths as a writer. Here is where the seeds of a good story are planted. However, the story grows, and once the various threads begin to interact with one another, not only does the plot become tiresome, but the heavy-handedness of the theme weighs the story down. It becomes exaggeratedly sentimental. There are no strong opposing forces amongst our main characters. Everyone is willing to give their life for their friends shrouded in bark. There are no counter arguments worth any weight whatsoever. And that's called propaganda. The intentions are good, but the orchestration reeks of a not-so-hidden agenda.

It's all just a bit too much. No, it's more than a bit. It's overwrought. If The Overstory had ended as a collection of interconnected short stories, it would've been more delightful, conveyed its message more clearly, and saved a whole lot of trees in the process.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
This book is all about Interconnectivity, not just between and among individuals, but between people and nature. Powers weaves a rich tale of how the lives of nine unrelated people come together and cross paths in an eerie way somehow connected to and influenced by trees. The understory of The Overstory consists of the machinations of the human characters, but the uniting theme of the entire book (the overstory) is that humans are mindlessly destroying the earth’s forests even though they (the humans) actually need those forests for their own continued survival.

The humans are brought together somewhat by accident—or is it through the subtle manipulations by surrounding trees that the humans unconsciously perceive but cannot quite articulate? In any event, the humans become ultimately unsuccessful protectors of the forest. They employ several tactics to hinder the lumber jacks. Two of them actually live for several months in a primitive shelter erected 200 feet above ground in the branches of one magnificent redwood to prevent its harvesting by an evil, greedy lumber company. Later six of them become literal “tree huggers”—they band together by handcuffing themselves around that same redwood. Their efforts go for naught when the lumber company, aided by the local police, forcefully drive them away.

Frustrated in their attempt to save one tree, they adopt new tactics to battle the march of “progress.” They attempt to set fire or blow up a ritzy ski resort under construction. Although they succeed in doing a great deal of property damage, disaster befalls them when one of their own is killed when the explosives are triggered prematurely. From that point on, they are fugitives, wanted not only for trespass and malicious destruction of property, but also murder.

Since the authorities do not know who they are, they are able to disperse and go into hiding. The law catches up with some of them, but only after two decades during which they have assumed new identities and some have achieved a degree of prominence.

Throughout his telling of the adventures of the humans, Powers intersperses observations on the characteristics of various species of trees, always emphasizing their importance to many other species of plants, animals, and humans. We learn the sad history of the American chestnut tree, a stately species that was once the dominant variety of hardwood in eastern America, but was virtually wiped out by a blight fungus. We learn the amazing properties of the banyan tree, which can live hundreds of years and grow to enormous size. We also learn that trees produce many medicines not otherwise available. But most of all we are reminded of the vital role trees play in removing carbon dioxide from the air and producing oxygen through photosynthesis.

Evaluation: Powers is an excellent writer whose prose sparkles throughout the book. His message about the importance of taking a long view in terms of climate and habitat is unfortunately not one that will appeal to many readers devoted to short term pleasures, short-sited self-interest and low taxes.

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LibraryThing member JFBallenger
This new novel by Richard Powers is absolutely great. Nothing I say could do it justice, but if you're struggling to imagine a future for us in the face the increasingly ominous news of climate catastrophe this may be the book you need.
LibraryThing member kukulaj
The book really gripped me. I read it in three days. Very moving.

It's about the ecological catastrophe that we are all racing into. Really it is just about trees, about the destruction of forests. Just one facet of the catastrophe, though certainly an important one. I think though that the trees just work here as a symbol of the broader biosphere.

This book poses the question - how might we respond to this catastrophe? Yeah, we could try to avoid it, to steer around it or hit the brakes before going completely off the cliff. Ha!

No, this is something that we - humans and the rest of life on the planet - will go through. Somehow this experience will be reflected in the evolutionary record, and be one of the layers that will make us whatever we will become. What will that be?

OK, I must say, I didn't get how the Ray and Dorothy story fit in. Could they be somehow some sort of Olympian Gods whose behavior is a microcosm that reflects the great story happening with the macrocosm?

Then there is like an artificial intelligence angle, practically a Ray Kurzweil vision. Well. Is the mind in the brain? The truth is that the mind runs on connection, on networking. The network that supports the mind doesn't really have any boundaries. It is probing the world, interacting with the world, enmeshed with the world. So maybe the Neelay story is exactly a criticism of the Kurzweil vision. Is our evolution beyond the catastrophe likely to include microelectronics? I can't quite see that.

Yeah I can't see how the bits and pieces really fit together. But this really is a profound symphony. The psychologist here, Adam, says that to change people's minds it doesn't work to use logic, you need to use a story. Here's a story that presents our situation at the enormous scale that really fits it.

I expect that many readers will see this story very differently than I do. It could be a story about a crime and how justice catches up to people. Could a more direct telling carry whatever message more reliably? I think the richness here will give me space to reflect for many months, mulling over the facets of the story. Maybe that is just the way depth is, it has many layers, so different readers will hear different ranges of layers.
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LibraryThing member JBD1
Simply put, a triumph. A beautiful story of trees and their people, but with the emphasis firmly on the trees. I'll enjoy coming back to this one.
LibraryThing member ozzer
Powers has built a career on telling stories at the interface between literature and science. THE OVERSTORY is no exception. This novel tells the stories of a group of people who come to see environmental degradation as catastrophic for trees. It is overly ambitious in many ways. The themes are big and include man’s connectedness to nature, the struggle between profit and conservation, and the tension between complacency and activism in the face of catastrophe. The settings range all over the country and the century, but come to focus in the Pacific Northwest during the 90’s when activists confronted the timber industry. All of the characters are plainly idealists. There is a scientist whose research focuses on how trees communicate; an Indian-American software engineer who comes to see the relationship between botanical genetics and computer games after becoming disabled as a child by falling out of a tree; a bored college student who escapes death and strangely becomes compelled to activism for trees; a psych grad student who aimlessly wanders into a dissertation topic on the personalities of those who become environmental activists; an artist whose family annually documents the minute changes in a chestnut tree on their Iowa farm; a Vietnam vet saved by a fig tree when he was shot down; an Asian-American woman whose family escaped China and was invested in mulberry trees; and a disabled patent attorney who becomes a compulsive reader. Whew! Each plotline develops independently, but they merge as the novel develops much like Powers’ structure reflecting the anatomy of trees: Roots, Trunk, Crown and Seeds.

The ambitious cast of characters and stories seem unwieldy at times. Moreover, Powers seems bent on stuffing in as many scientific facts about trees as possible often to the detriment of the narrative. A bit more focus may have improved this read.
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LibraryThing member labdaddy4
There were times the writing brought me to tears, there were times I felt lost, and there were times I was educated. This is a masterful work - a meaningful work. I normally don’t enjoy being lectured but this was different, this was a rare literary experience - one that had a real impact. I wish the tone had been more optimistic but I understand why it couldn’t be - it told the truth and the truth is so very ugly and sad. At times this book felt like a scream and a plea and a prayer all rolled up together.… (more)
LibraryThing member booklove2
A 500 page novel about trees? Yes, please! But what is lovely here is that Powers has a fantastic ability to split the stage between both the trees, and also a vast cast of human characters. I was enthralled with most of the characters' life story in only twenty or so pages. An excellent introduction to the characters that was neither too much or too little. That might be Powers best trick here, and also my favorite part of the book. The chapters in the beginning that each character has on their own, but also shows the impact trees had on their life. But the overall layout of the book is genius: with sections of the book called 'roots', 'trunk', 'crown', and 'seeds', the characters beginnings start in the 'roots' section, the characters start to come together in the 'trunk', mainly to fight for the trees. The characters separate again in 'crown' like the branches of a tree, and what will come next, for the characters and humans in general in 'seeds'. Absolutely brilliant. With the setup chapters in the beginning, I was completely enthralled, especially with the amazing job of making me cry about some of these characters within twenty pages. Some characters might fall into a tree and be saved in Vietnam, others might fall out of a tree and be permanently damaged. But the larger chunk of the book seemed to take too much space for what plot there was. And the end definitely could have been bigger with what comes later. The book hints at something after humans, and I would have liked to see that explored more. So much could be done there! However, the always surprising notes about trees are there on every page, worth reading the book alone, and Powers probably could have filled another book with these tree facts. I think part of what Powers wanted to do was show each reader how little they actually know about trees, especially to get them to care more about trees than they probably already do. I have always thought trees are amazing and essential. They create oxygen, if there needs to be any other reason! This is the first book I've read by Powers and I can't help but think that this one is different from the others. Maybe more of an urgent message than the others? But it certainly won't stop me from being eager to read more from him.… (more)
LibraryThing member alexrichman
Started off as a brilliantly bonkers short story collection about people whose lives are shaped or changed by trees.... then they all stagger towards activism and chance meetings or crossovers. That’s usually the satisfying bit, but I much preferred the setups. Also, a few characters feel like they could have been cut quite easily - and it’s basically a book about how awful we are, which is a tad depressing. Still, at least the trees will thrive once we’re all out of the way.… (more)
LibraryThing member msf59
“The Northwest has more miles of logging road than public highway. More miles of logging road than streams. The country has enough to circle the Earth a dozen times. The cost of cutting them is tax-deductible...”

“The world had six trillion trees, when people showed up. Half remain. Half again more will disappear, in a hundred years.”

“When you feel good after a walk in the woods, it may be that certain species are bribing you. So many wonder drugs have come from trees, and we haven't yet scratched the surface of the offerings. Trees have long been trying to reach us. But they speak on frequencies too low for people to hear.”

This novel blew me away! I am not going to describe much of the twisty plot, but I will say, that it begins slowly, as we are introduced to a number of diverse characters, and how most of them are touched, in some way by trees. The middle of the novel, brings these characters together, as they team together to fight an environmental cause. The last third, shows how these events, have effected each of these people, in the years to come. The writing here is smart and powerful. The author has done impeccable research and his passion for his subject matter, is apparent on every page. It only flags a bit, in the final 100 pages, but not enough for me to change my 5 star rating.
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LibraryThing member japaul22
Powers has written a novel that is about trees as much as people. The first section of the book tells brief stories of eight people and their interaction with trees - largely in childhood or youth. It's absolutely beautiful. As I read this section of the book I was gasping in awe of Powers' writing and insight and feeling a deep connection with the world of trees. It was magical. A five star read for sure.

And then in the second half of the book, these people grow up and their early tree experiences lead to something that I would call eco-terrorism. Having been so moved by the first section of the book, I could see the point and felt empathy for their points of view, but I was very uncomfortable with the actions. I started not wanting to pick the book up. On the strength of the first section I continued on and started to see that part of the author's point here was probably to challenge me, the reader, as to just how much humans are interfering with the world and make me think about what the reasonable steps to take really are. So even though I still was uncomfortable, I started to appreciate the point again. I never got back to how captivated I was by the first section, but I see why the book developed the way it did.

In the end, I think this is a great book though I'm sure not everyone will connect with it. I expect it will be a memorable book for me and I'm definitely interested in reading more by [[Richard Powers]].
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LibraryThing member JosephKing6602
Another masterpiece! Very engaging content; mix of science and story-telling and character development. This book was more accessible than some of his other books. He remains one of my favorite authors; andi always anticipate reading his books, this one did NOT disappoint.
LibraryThing member sanyamakadi
Halfway through the first section of the book, which introduced the beautiful, complex, stories of the main characters, I knew that this book was unlike anything I had ever read. The language, the narrative, the interwoven lives, and the way humans were intertwined with nature, was breathtaking. The second part of the story, which played out in a more traditional activist narrative, left me ready to run to the redwoods and spend hours, days, years, breathing them in and listening to what they had to say. I knew the story would not have a happy ending, because that would not be a true one. But by the end all of the characters had either died or been transformed. And I felt like I had done a little bit of both.… (more)
LibraryThing member LGCullens
Five stars is not enough to rate this book.

Book reviews have always been easy to write, save for this one. All that comes to my mind is a clumsy "Wow." The insight and sheer brilliance of this wordsmith in captivatingly stretching my perception leave me without adequate language to do the book justice. My visual sense sees the book cover artwork capturing more meaning than my words could.

All I can do is offer a quote that this book gives real meaning to:

"Literature is a process of producing beautiful lies that tell more truth than any facts." ~ Julian Barnes

And a snippet that may provide an inkling of what the reader is in for.

"That's the trouble with people, their root problem. Life runs alongside them, unseen. Right here, right next. Creating the soil. Cycling water. Trading in nutrients. Making weather. Building atmosphere. Feeding and curing and sheltering more kinds of creatures than people know how to count.

A chorus of living wood sings to the woman: If your mind were only a slightly greener thing, we'd drown you in meaning."
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LibraryThing member nmele
There were times when I wondered how Powers would draw all his many plot threads and characters together, but I shouldn't have doubted. This is a sprawling novel which spans generations and genres, tied together by trees: their overstory, their abuse by humans, and their value. It is also fun to read.
LibraryThing member Rosareads
The first section, developing the interesting characters, was very absorbing and sensitively written. Much of the remainder of the book was a bore. And I greatly enjoy Richard Powers books (usually).
LibraryThing member traumleben
“The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story” p 336

Richard Powers certainly set out to do that and, while he's woven a powerful tale that borders on the mystical at times, it's also one grounded in five years of reading field guides and scientific papers in addition to more popular literature on trees. Powers is deserving of the Pulitzer this book received, from the beauty of a single sentence, to the sophistication of the book's organization and story arc. I won't give away any of story because the joy of this novel is how it springs upward and reveals its secrets branch by branch and leaf by leaf; but then you realize the roots are expanding, driving outward and down further beneath your soul.

Humankind's advance on the natural world and its long term impact can hardly be argued any longer as we see temps climb, forests burned, and land laid bare for the sake of human consumption. What this novel will convey to you is the grand context the present epoch could have on the life and livelihood of the planet. The story is compelling.
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LibraryThing member ThomasPluck
This is a great gripping and uplifting read. It's not a sad ending... just one trees would recognize. Respect trees. Makes me want to Plant some blight resistant American chestnut trees.




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