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The Overstory
Cover of The Overstory
The Overstory
A Novel

New York Times Bestseller
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
Longlisted for the ALA Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence
A New York Times Notable, 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

National Book Award winner Richard Powers's twelfth novel is a sweeping, impassioned work 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. 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.

New York Times Bestseller
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
Longlisted for the ALA Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence
A New York Times Notable, 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

National Book Award winner Richard Powers's twelfth novel is a sweeping, impassioned work 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. 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.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Richard Powers is the author of twelve novels. His most recent, The Overstory, won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. He is also the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Book Award, and he has been a four-time National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. He lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    November 15, 2017

    A National Book Award winner, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and three-time National Book Critics Circle finalist, big-issues author Powers here focuses on the environment, particularly on trees and the recent Timber Wars centered in the Pacific Northwest, as a disparate group of characters are brought together to save the last of the country's virgin forests. Among them: a scientist who learns that trees can communicate, a Vietnam War air force loadmaster saved after he's shot from the sky by falling into a banyan tree, and a partied-out young woman sent back from the dead. With a six-city tour.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2018
    Powers' (Orfeo, 2014, etc.) 12th novel is a masterpiece of operatic proportions, involving nine central characters and more than half a century of American life.In this work, Powers takes on the subject of nature, or our relationship to nature, as filtered through the lens of environmental activism, although at its heart the book is after more existential concerns. As is the case with much of Powers' fiction, it takes shape slowly--first in a pastiche of narratives establishing the characters (a psychologist, an undergraduate who died briefly but was revived, a paraplegic computer game designer, a homeless vet), and then in the kaleidoscopic ways these individuals come together and break apart. "We all travel the Milky Way together, trees and men," Powers writes, quoting the naturalist John Muir. "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." The idea is important because what Powers means to explore is a sense of how we become who we are, individually and collectively, and our responsibility to the planet and to ourselves. Nick, for instance, continues a project begun by his grandfather to take repeated photographs of a single chestnut tree, "one a month for seventy-six years." Pat, a visionary botanist, discovers how trees communicate with one another only to be discredited and then, a generation later, reaffirmed. What links the characters is survival--the survival of both trees and human beings. The bulk of the action unfolds during the timber wars of the late 1990s, as the characters coalesce on the Pacific coast to save old-growth sequoia from logging concerns. For Powers, however, political or environmental activism becomes a filter through which to consider the connectedness of all things--not only the human lives he portrays in often painfully intricate dimensions, but also the biosphere, both virtual and natural. "The world starts here," Powers insists. "This is the merest beginning. Life can do anything. You have no idea."A magnificent achievement: a novel that is, by turns, both optimistic and fatalistic, idealistic without being naive.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 19, 2018
    Occupying the same thematic terrain as Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, the latest from Powers (Orfeo) is an impassioned but unsatisfying paean to the wonder of trees. Set primarily on the West Coast, the story revolves around nine characters, separated by age and geography, whose “lives have long been connected, deep underground.” Among these are a wheelchair-bound computer game designer; a scientist who uncovers the forest’s hidden communication systems; a psychologist studying the personality types of environmental activists; and a young woman who, after being electrocuted, hears voices urging her to save old-growth forests from logging. All are seduced by the majesty of trees and express their arboreal love in different ways: through scholarship, activism, art, and even violent resistance. Some of the prose soars, as when a redwood trunk shoots upward in a “russet, leathery apotheosis,” while some lands with a thud: “We’re cashing in a billion years of planetary savings bonds and blowing it on assorted bling.” Powers’s best works are thrilling accounts of characters blossoming as they pursue their intellectual passions; here, few of the earnest figures come alive on the page. While it teems with people, information, and ideas, the novel feels curiously barren.

  • Michael Upchurch;The Boston Globe A big, ambitious epic.... Powers juggles the personal dramas of his far-flung cast with vigor and clarity. The human elements of the book—the arcs his characters follow over the decades from crusading passion to muddled regret and a sense of failure—are thoroughly compelling. So are the extra-human elements, thanks to the extraordinary imaginative flights of Powers's prose, which persuades you on the very first page that you're hearing the voices of trees as they chide our species.
  • Robert MacFarlane A towering achievement by a major writer.
  • Leanne Shapton, judge for the Man Booker Prize The Overstory, a novel about trees and people who understand them, is the eco-epic of the year and perhaps the decade. Unlike the Lorax, who spoke for the trees, Richard Powers prefers to let them do their own talking.
  • Barbara Kingsolver;The New York Times Book Review Monumental... The Overstory accomplishes what few living writers from either camp, art or science, could attempt. Using the tools of the story, he pulls readers heart-first into a perspective so much longer-lived and more subtly developed than the human purview that we gain glimpses of a vast, primordial sensibility, while watching our own kind get whittled down to size.... A gigantic fable of genuine truths.
  • Thomas McGuane The Overstory is a visionary, accessible legend for the planet that owns us, its exaltation and its peril, a remarkable achievement by a great writer.
  • Nathaniel Rich;The Atlantic Powers is the rare American novelist writing in the grand realist tradition, daring to cast himself, in the critic Peter Brooks's term, as a 'historian of contemporary society.' He has the courage and intellectual stamina to explore our most complex social questions with originality, nuance, and an innate skepticism about dogma. At a time when literary convention favors novelists who write narrowly about personal experience, Powers's ambit is refreshingly unfashionable, restoring to the form an authority it has shirked.
  • Bill McKibben This book is beyond special.... It's a kind of breakthrough in the ways we think about and understand the world around us, at a moment when that is desperately needed.
  • Geraldine Brooks The best novels change the way you see. Richard Powers's The Overstory does this. Haunting.
  • Ron Charles;The Washington Post This ambitious novel soars up through the canopy of American literature and remakes the landscape of environmental fiction.... Remarkable.
  • Sam Sacks;The Wall Street Journal [Powers is] brilliant on the strange idea of 'plant personhood[,]'... opening our eyes to the wondrous things just above our line of sight. Memorable chapters unfold... [with] many unforgettable images in a novel devoted to 'reviving that dead metaphor at the heart of the word bewilderment.'
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