The Overstory: A Novel
This 2019 Pulitzer Prize winner absolutely blew me away. Powers constructs a novel that begins with a series of seemingly disconnected stories, each grounded by a tree, and some of them stretching back more than a century.
The "understory" finally lands us on a number of central characters: the researcher shunned for her notion of trees communicating; the artist whose family documented a changing tree for decades; the college slacker who turns activist following a near-death experience; the veteran who finds solace only in the solitude of outdoors; the engineer mourning the loss of the only tree visible from her office; the psychologist curious about what drives extreme activists; and the creator of virtual worlds, felled by a tree as a child and compelled to make a more perfect place to exist.
These disparate characters come together in a larger-than-life narrative that becomes a call to activism, a meditation on our place in the world, and an awe-stricken view into the complex and impressive lives and resilience of trees.
This book will not be for everyone; it's a slow read that requires patience. But for those who find Powers' style resonates, it is truly an impressive feat of literature. I follow the Now Read This Book Club on Facebook, which has also been reading The Overstory this month, and the feed has been filled with beautiful photos and stories of meaningful and amazing trees. This book seems to inspire such reflection; you can read my own "tree story" in my post on Fiction and Nonfiction Books About Trees.
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The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, 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, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel 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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