The Overstory by Richard Powers

The Overstory

"Monumental…a gigantic fable of genuine truths." —Barbara Kingsolver, New York Times Book ReviewAn 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 hearin...

Details The Overstory

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

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...
  • Meike
    Now Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018Richard Powers goes eco-fiction: In "The Overstory", the real protagonists are trees - living, breathing, communicating, ever-evolving, hard-working, intelligent trees. Okay, there are also people, but the quest they are on is to understand what the trees already know. Powers knits a whole web of protagonists, and the rootage of the book is a compilation of short stories, introducing the human character...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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 ...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • Betsy Robinson
    Immediately after inhaling the first two pages of this book, I screamed, "Thank you!" To whom, I'm not sure. Then throughout the book, I re-erupted with it, sometimes to Richard Powers, sometimes to whatever force allowed me to understand what came through Powers, through the page, through the people he was writing through, and through the ancient tree memory that pervaded this orgasmic and sweeping novel about all of Nature’s life.This book, t...
  • 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...
  • 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:
  • Peter Boyle
    I reckon everyone has a tree story. Here's mine. When I was a boy, our family planted a wood of sitka spruce and lodgepole pine on a stretch of wasteland that surrounded our farm. The government provided a grant to help pay for this, and the annual subsidies that the forest generated helped put my brother and me through college. The saplings were knee-high when we sowed them and now they stretch a couple of storeys high. I live in the city these ...
  • 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 ...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • Sarah Tittle
    I don't know why it took me so long to read Richard Powers! I love books with meat and heft, that tackle big questions but can also zero in on nuances of everyday life. He really achieves that in the two novels I've read of his (the other is Orfeo). The size of this book may be intimidating, but from page one I was captivated by the stories of his characters. He introduces each one in chapters, that are in themselves beautifully crafted short sto...
  • Kathryn Bashaar
    Very readable, and quite radical in its premise. Basically, the true protagonists of this story are not human. I found that intriguing, even astonishing, but ultimately unsatisfying. From the larger perspective, this is a glorious, beautiful story. From the human standpoint, it is unbearably bleak (and, frighteningly, probably true). Like my reviews? Check out my blog at of The Saint's Mistress: https://w...
  • Steve
    13MAY18. Two chapters in and I'm hooked. That first chapter had me weeping, and I mean weeping. Absolutely unbelievable. Published solo it would win Story Of The Year. (Somewhere. Whatever. You know what I mean.)14MAY18. So I pop in here this morning to add to yesterday's thoughts, one of which thoughts being—as you can see—how I was weeping...over damned trees. And I was going to add how I'll never look at another tree the same way, because ...
  • 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 ...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • Loring Wirbel
    It's almost uncanny the way Richard Powers can consistently hit grand-slam home runs out of the ballpark. In the course of a dozen novels, only one or two warranted a "mere" four-star ranking, while the rest were solid fives, leaving us to decide how excellence gets parceled out and distributed across his widely divergent novels. A novel explicitly naming trees as protagonists, and charting the story of human misuse of planetary systems of life a...
  • 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...
  • Mary
    Another masterpiece from Richard Powers. Drawing on a wide variety of characters, an engineer, a veteran, a video game designer, an attorney, a college student struck by lightening, an artist, and a woman whose childhood love of trees become her expertise, Powers shows them all fighting in their own way to call attention to the plight of our forests. The adventures of these characters take readers from the forefront of the fight to keep loggers f...