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The Overstory: A Novel

The Overstory: A Novel

by Richard Powers (Author)

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
New York Times Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book and a Washington Post, Time, Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2018

"The best novel ever written about trees, and really just one of the best novels, period."―Ann Patchett

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."

The Overstory: A Novel by Richard Powers is an ambitious and sweeping epic that follows the lives of nine characters over the course of decades as they intersect with the expansive and imperiled world of trees. The novel delves into the intricate relationship between humans and nature, exploring themes of environmentalism, conservation, and the importance of respecting the natural world.

The story begins in 1950s California, where four children—Nick, Olivia, Ray, and Mimi—are drawn together by their shared fascination with trees. As they grow up, their lives take different paths, but they all remain connected to the trees in some way. Nick becomes a forest ecologist, Olivia a botanist, Ray a logger, and Mimi an environmental activist. Over the years, they witness firsthand the devastating effects of deforestation and climate change, and they come to understand the interconnectedness of all living things.

The novel spans several generations and continents, moving from the redwood forests of California to the rainforests of the Amazon. Powers weaves together the stories of these nine characters to create a powerful narrative that highlights the urgent need for environmental action. Through their experiences, the characters learn the importance of preserving the natural world and the devastating consequences of ignoring the interconnectedness of life.

The Overstory is a profound and thought-provoking novel that explores the complex relationship between humans and trees. Powers's lyrical prose and intricate storytelling immerse readers in the beauty and fragility of the natural world, while also highlighting the urgent need for environmental stewardship. The novel is a call to action, urging readers to take responsibility for the planet and to protect the trees that sustain all life.


512 pages