The Overstory by Richard Powers

The Overstory

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...

Details The Overstory

TitleThe Overstory
Release DateApr 3rd, 2018
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
GenreFiction, Environment, Nature, Literary Fiction, Novels, Contemporary

Reviews The Overstory

  • Ron Charles
    Richard Powers’s “The Overstory” soars up through the canopy of American literature and remakes the landscape of environmental fiction.Long celebrated for his compelling, cerebral books, Powers demonstrates a remarkable ability to tell dramatic, emotionally involving stories while delving into subjects many readers would otherwise find arcane. He’s written about genetics, pharmaceuticals, artificial intelligence, music and photography. In...
  • Neil
    Two quotes from different parts of this book:"The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story."And"Yes! And what do all good stories do?" There are no takers. Neelay holds up his arms and extends his palms in the oddest gesture. In another moment, leaves will grow from his fingers. Birds will come and nest in them. "They kill you a little. They turn you into something you weren’t...
  • Paul Fulcher
    The Overstory is the first Richard Powers novel I have read but he, and indeed this book, comes highly recommended (not least by my good Goodreads friend Neil) and this was certainly a striking if flawed read. The first part of the novel consists of 8 separate short stories (ranging from 9 to 33 pages) with the background and life of some, at that time, unconnected characters.In each of the stories trees play a part, albeit with very varying leve...
  • Jonfaith
    The only thing that really counts is hoarding a little bit more.There's a strange thread running through this novel. It concerns a psychologist and his work on cognitive blindness. The theme is hammered home repeatedly with resounding force and frequency: we can't identify with plants, thus we aren't able to recognize their integral position in ecology. Yeah, well, maybe that's why my focus suffered throughout this 500 page novel. Powers remains ...
  • Blair
    The Overstory is the second Richard Powers book I have read – after Plowing the Dark – and although I liked this a lot more, I find it equally difficult to talk about. Perhaps it's simply the scope of it: the cast of characters alone is vast, and if I start trying to write a summary of each of them I'll be here all day. The plot is even harder to pin down. It is, of course, basically about trees. Trees as the extraordinary, underappreciated...
  • Logan Farmer
    I can't stop thinking about this book. A sprawling literary eco-epic, The Overstory is the kind of novel that changes people. It's a riveting call to arms and a bitter indictment of our wasteful culture. More than this, it's an incredibly human story with a huge cast of rich characters that you'll never forget. Dense but accessible, Powers is a master of intersecting science, art, and spirituality without sacrificing plot. I pity the next custome...
  • Steve Donoghue
    In this latest novel by one of the best living writers, the world's trees are talking, murmuring to a handful of very different individual humans - murmuring strange and quietly alarming things about the future of the world. This is a writer who's not at all afraid of exploring a weird premise, but even so, this is a doozy. Here's my review:
  • Venero Armanno
    A brilliant treatise on the value of trees and nature, the interconnection between all things, humans (unfortunately, more often as destroyers than nurturers) included. The structure of the novel resembles something like vast root networks coalescing into tree structures - nine characters from opening stories that don't connect eventually do connect in a long section called "Trunk", and from there these lives take on a number of differing directi...
  • David Joy
    Trying to explain Richard Powers' Overstory a few weeks back I told someone that it was as if Wendell Berry had written a work of magical realism. I don't know if that's exactly right or not now, but I know that this novel is something different than anything else I've ever read. When I finished it the first time, I took a few weeks to try and digest it. I thought of it often. And then one morning over coffee I just started reading it again. It s...
  • Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
    I'm one-handed this week, so typing is a difficult, hunt-and-peck sort of adventure. But that's just an excuse thrown out there; the truth is that I'm one-brained and I'll never be anything more than one-brained, and that is reason I'll never be able to share with you the amazingness of Richard Powers and his incredible multi-brained, multi-dimensional novels. To read a Richard Powers novel is to leave this world forever (know this: you'll never ...
  • Greg Zimmerman
    First appeared at, I realize talking you in to a 500-page novel about trees could be a tough sell. But what if I told you that Richard Powers' new novel The Overstory could quite literally change your life. It's that powerful; as immense and magisterial as the trees it's about. If the measure of a good novel is one that gets you to see the world differently, or think more openly, then this is an absolu...
  • Eddie Watkins
    Consciousness game changer.
  • Dax
    I received an ARC from WW Norton through the goodreads giveaway program.It is evident from the very first page that Powers has an agenda with his latest novel “The Overstory.” Powers wants us to realize that we have a Midas problem. Human beings have established a culture of insatiability which will ultimately lead to our own destruction. “How do you win? I mean, how would you even lose? The only thing that really counts is hoarding a littl...
  • Eleanor
    Richard Powers is fast making his way into my favourite writers of all time (a permanently shifting category that at the moment includes A.S. Byatt, Sarah Hall, and William Thackeray). The Overstory, his latest book, is maybe his most ambitious yet: it seeks, essentially, to instill in its reader a sense of sympathy and identification with trees. That Powers actually manages it is confirmation that he is one of the most skilled writers currently...
  • Jo
    4.5 StarsAll it really took for me to pick this up instantly was that it was about trees and it probably helps your enjoyment of this book if you are a tree person and/or have seen the big trees of California or maybe those things don’t matter. Either way trees are the central character in this book, how they’ve shaped our lives, what they do for us, what we’ve done to them and so on all exemplified through the lives of nine different chara...
  • Bruce Katz
    I can't imagine how to assign a "star" value to this book. I mean, I have no idea what 5 stars or 4 stars might signify with regards to a work like this. But I feel obliged to do something... This is exactly what one would expect from a Powers novel: numerous passages of gorgeous writing, complexity, overflowing with ideas and allusions, intellectually demanding, emotionally uncertain, occasionally utterly opaque, and deeply resistant to categori...
  • Dorothy
    Trees compose the overstory on Earth; the rest of us lesser creatures and plants compose the understory. We humans in our arrogance and hubris designate ourselves as THE sentient beings. Little do we ken the emotional, intellectual, and social life of trees. We are only beginning to have the smallest inkling of how dependent we are - all of life is - on them.Early in Richard Powers wonderful, monumental novel, there was this quote: "That's the tr...
  • Marius
    Žymus JAV rašytojas Richardas Powersas pas mus bevek nežinomas ir neverstas, o jo romanai, kuriuose dažniausiai kalbama apie mokslo ir technologijų įtaką pasauliui ir žmonijai, pateikiama (ir labai patraukliai) gausybė įvairių faktų, o siužetas dažnai įtemptas ir gana intriguojantis - puikūs. Mane užkabino jo romanas "Orfeo" - pasakojantis apie genetinius eksperimentus, bioterorizmq ir muzikos bei biologijos ryšį.Šis jo romana...
  • Kasa Cotugno
    It begins with the roots. Major characters are introduced seemingly with no connection to each other. But with the trunk, the connections become clear, and like the sap rising, reaching to the crown, branching out over the country, illustrating the connectivity between every person, every tree, despite differences. Richard Powers has done it again, drawing lines previously unrecognized. His books immerse me in unexpected ways, whether the subject...
  • Stephanie Crowe
    Provocative and powerful! It gives one pause about how cavalier man is when it comes the natural world and how little we understand and appreciate the gifts offered by nature. Powers relates insightful tales of how a group of passionate individuals took responsibility for saving trees and the environment.Beautifully written!
  • Shelley Ettinger
    Well. A long rant has been percolating in my head while I read this overpraised novel by a writer I try over and over and whose work over and over fails to wow me, which is putting it kindly. Lately I've read a number of the 'what to do about great men/geniuses who are also sexual assaulters' think pieces that have been proliferating and what throws me each time is that the artists cited are in reality not a single one of them great, let alone a ...
  • Andy
    extraordinary book centred on our evolving understanding of trees and the biomes they support and the complexity and intelligence of the ecosystems they representthe environmental scientific messages were well blended with a set of well realised characters and story-linesfirst section reads like a typical great American novel, introduced to multiple generations of striving, driven families, tracing back in many cases to migrant ancestors, until w...
  • Craig Werner
    Maybe Powers' finest novel, which means it deserves a place on the shelf of the most compelling American fiction of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The Overstory weaves together eight (human) plot lines, but more importantly, subordinates those lines to a vision of life as a web, literally a forest in which it makes no sense to think of "individuals": there's no such thing as a tree, only forests.And if we--humanity--determine that we can...
  • Laura Spira
    Richard Powers is a stunning writer and I have enjoyed all his books so I was keen to read this. It didn't disappoint. It's a book as big as the giant trees he writes about, and it twists and turns and branches much like a tree but with a central environmental theme, just like a trunk. The two best things about this book: first, the characters he chooses to carry his message, finely drawn with interesting back stories and wholly convincing in the...
  • Gisela Hausmann
    I had to read “The Overstory” by Richard Powers for a project. 500 pages. “Yawn” you might think?Many of us have experienced this – having to read a tome for work, me too. (Usually it’s not a great experience. )Never ever have I been so happy that I “had to read” a book. “The Overstory” by Richard Powers is fascinating riveting, and beautifully worded. Powers draws us into a world we thought we knew – the world of trees and ...
  • Grace Sanchez
    One could never fault Richard Powers for sparing any details about any subject or person in his books. Some people may find it overwhelming but I find it enlightening. Have you ever apologized to a tree because of climate change? Do you feel different when you’re in a forest or out in nature? Do you know people who have lived a life of intention in order to protect our planet? Trees, climate change, and their human advocates are at the center o...
  • Bibliophile
    Richard Powers is all about the big ideas. In these apocalyptic times it is comforting to find that he is as brilliant as ever, as he earnestly writes Trees: a love story. I can't think of anyone quite like him.
  • Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
    So much that I absolutely adored in this. Moving and powerful and terrifying, but minor reservations are holding me back from 5 stars. Proper review to follow.