The Overstory

The Overstory

A Novel

Book - 2018
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"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."-- From dust jacket.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2018]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780393635522
Branch Call Number: FICTION POWERS 2018
Characteristics: 502 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Jan 30, 2019

One of the most extraordinary novels I've read in recent years. I couldn't get into the other books I've read by Powers ("Orfeo," "Galatea 2.0."), but this blew me away. All the stories and characters are linked by trees. Seriously. Winner of the National Book Award and possibly the most ambitious and impressive book of 2018.

Chapel_Hill_MarthaW Jan 06, 2019

I found this book to be an impressive feat of writing, but one that completely failed to connect with me on the emotional level I was expecting, considering its subject matter. Five stars for the writing, two stars for my personal enjoyment of it, plus a few bonus points for its timeliness.

TechLibrarian Dec 03, 2018

I'm surprised that I hadn't more about this book, it's really an impressive feat, and both literary and compelling. I didn't know what I was in for, but in a nutshell, there are a handful of characters whose lives are affected in some manner or other by trees. Eventually their stories converge and branch. Along the way, the author shares lots of cool facts about trees and forests (not unlike The Hidden Life of Trees, except of course that this is fiction!). As a few of the characters join protests to protect forests, conflicts arise, many of which seem to be based on real life events. This book raises questions about environmentalism, activism, sentience, ecoterrorism, etc. etc.

Be forewarned that this book is massive! In that respect and its subject matter, I'd liken it to Annie Proulx's The Barkskins. Yet, I think many people would find it worth their while, as it's thought-provoking and entertaining both. The audio is well-read, though I think I would have liked the print version as well.

Nov 29, 2018

Partly my fault that I don't like this--I thought it was a novel It isn't. It is 503 pages of overwritten short stories. The stories are all the same: some people are good; some people are bad, and all people make mistakes, but all trees are good, and good trees don't make mistakes. Good book if you belong to the English Major White Male Novelist is King Club and worship James Joyce, Herman Melville, and Henry James; otherwise, it is a bit tedious.

Nov 26, 2018

Trees and people who have their lives touched in incredible ways by them fill these remarkable stories. Epic in scope but so, so beguiling in the telling.

What starts as individual stories, fascinating in their own right, interconnects by the book’s end. Just a few parts slowed down for me. Every reader will have favorite characters and storylines that resonate. I read the author’s earlier 'The Echo Maker' in 2005 because a friend recommended how the author blends science in his storytelling art. This book does the same. Such a talented writer.

Nov 05, 2018

Eh, it's ok, but nothing to cry about. The reviews I read of it (NYT, for one) were positively rhapsodic, saying it had a plot structure as complex and rich as the root structure of a forest of trees and... no. There is a huge amount of exposition of about trees, which is interesting for a little while but gets old fast.

Nov 04, 2018

Biologists use a tree structure to show the evolutionary relationship among all species on Earth, a tree of life. In The Overstory, trees are both a metaphor for life and essential to life, breathing for the planet, part of a connected organism of plants, animals, soil, water, air. We follow nine individuals across decades and the deforestation of America. Each is called to act in some way to halt the devastation; destroying the forests means the destruction of life on Earth. The book is beautifully written and inspirational, incorporating the latest science about tree behaviour and communication. Hopefully it will motivate people to change or demand change. On the downside, the book goes on a bit too long. It also neglects the wisdom and knowledge of First Nations, and only briefly includes them near the end, a very odd choice by an author who seems so well-informed and sympathetic to the natural world.

ArapahoeJulieH Oct 31, 2018

The Overstory reveals the inter-relationship of trees as social fauna which communicate and exist for the benefit of their communities. This novel takes on a multi-narrative approach of nine characters including a homeless vet, a visionary botanist, an engineer, a visual artist, a game developer and a grad student whose fates all coalesce around the timber wars of the 1980s in the northwest.

The Overstory is a beautiful yet tragic portrayal of human vulnerability and resilience concerning the fate of our planet.

Poetically written with a touch of magical realism, I’d recommend this enlightening book for anyone interested in the unfolding catastrophic events happening to our environment.

Oct 31, 2018

This book is astonishing.

The book intertwines the stories of a dozen of people in the US whose lives are somehow connected to trees. These beautiful and unexpectedly thought-provoking stories are the content of the first part, which would make a much better collection of short stories rather than a novel (IMHO a failed attempt on the part of the author). I especially enjoyed the story of a women professor of forestry who was way ahead of her time in science and therefore was ostracized by the field male big shots.

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