Nine strangers, each in different ways, become summoned by trees, brought together in a last stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest.
The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fable, ranging from antebellum New York to the late-twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, revealing a world alongside our own – vast, slow, 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.
About the Author
Richard Powers is the author of twelve novels, including Orfeo (which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), The Echo Maker, The Time of Our Singing, Galatea 2.2 and Plowing into the Dark. He is the recipient of a MacArthur grant and the National Book Award, and has been a Pulitzer Prize and four-time NBCC finalist. He lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
"An extraordinary novel ... It's an astonishing performance ...He's incredibly good at describing trees, at turning the science into poetry ...The book is full of ideas ... Like Moby-Dick, The Overstory leaves you with a slightly adjusted frame of reference ... Some of what was happening to his characters passed into my conscience, like alcohol into the bloodstream, and left a feeling behind of grief or guilt, even after I put it down. Which is one test of the quality of a novel." -- Ben Markovits * Guardian *
"The time is ripe for a big novel that tells us as much about trees as Moby-Dick does about whales ... The Overstory is that novel and it is very nearly a masterpiece ... The encyclopaedic powers of Powers extend from the sciences to the literary classics. On almost every page of The Overstory you will find sentences that combine precision and vision. You will learn new facts about trees ... [An] exhilarating read." * The Times *
"[The Overstory] whirls together so many characters, so much research and such a jostle of intersecting ideas that, at times, it feels like a landbound companion to Moby-Dick's digressional and obsessive whale tale ... One of the most thoughtful and involving novels I've read for years ... This long book is astonishingly light on its feet, and its borrowings from real research are conducted with verve ... The propulsive style and the enthusiastic reverence of Powers's writing about nature keep it whizzing through any amount of linked observations on literary criticism, political science and statistical analysis. It's an extraordinary novel, alert to the large ideas and humanely generous to the small ones; in an age of cramped autofictions and self-scrutinising miniatures, it blossoms." -- Tim Martin * Daily Telegraph *
"Big brainy books bristling with formidable versatility have been Powers's speciality since he launched his highly idiosyncratic fictional career ... The Overstory is a hugely ambitious eco-fable ... An immense and intense homage to the arboreal world, the book is alive with riveting data, cogent reasoning and urgent argument ... [Pages] teem with knowledge and gleam with aesthetic appeal. Angry energy pulses through scenes ... Valiant." -- Peter Kemp * Sunday Times *
"No less a writer than Margaret Atwood has said of Richard Powers that "it's not possible for him to write an uninteresting book". On the evidence of The Overstory, he is continuing a remarkable run ... This is a mighty, at times even monolithic, work that combines the multi-narrative approach of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas with a paean to the grandeur and wonder of trees that elegantly sidesteps pretension and overambition. Early comparisons to Moby-Dick are unfairly lofty, but this fine book can stand on its own ... Written with a freshness that belies the well-worn subject matter ... As befits a book that spans centuries, there is a richness and allusiveness to the prose that reaches back as far as Thoreau's Walden, and Emerson is an acknowledged touchstone. The Overstory is high-minded but never precious ... [A] majestic redwood of a novel ... It is fitting that it ends with a message of hope. As with Larkin, a belief that humanity is capable of redeeming itself and beginning "afresh, afresh, afresh"." * Observer *