By Richard Powers
W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393356687, April 2019, 512pp.
The Short of It:
This work of fiction is bigger than the trees and people it’s about.
The Rest of It:
It is impossible for me to explain the magnitude of this work but I shall try. The Overstory is comprised of seemingly independent stories that eventually become entwined for a finale that I personally didn’t see coming.
Each story is in some way about nature and trees and the importance of their place in the world we live in. What they represent, how we can’t live without them, and in one story, how they speak to us. In the telling of this story, we meet a young woman who, after surviving an accident, begins to hear voices instructing her to leave everything behind and to just head out onto the road. Go where? She isn’t sure but while following these voices, she meets a person who is on his own quest for answers and together they head out on a journey that will change their lives.
In other stories, we meet a married couple who is unable to have children, a young man who is sentenced to a wheelchair but who finds fame in the video games he creates, a young woman who struggles to find purpose after her father commits suicide. There’s even more but it’s best if you go into the story blind. You must experience it for yourself. I found myself totally immersed in these stories and they had me yearning for fresh air and sunshine. I will never look at a tree in the same way again and if you shy away from short fiction do not shy away from this book because it is absolutely a novel, not just a collection of similar stories.
At 500+ pages The Overstory is a commitment but if you love the outdoors or if you’re like me and have found an appreciation for the outdoors since this pandemic hit, you will find yourself treasuring this novel. I read it in two days and when I turned that last page I sat there stroking its cover for a full five minutes. So much to think about.
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17 thoughts on “Review: The Overstory”
This sounds like a story for me! I have to put this on the TBR
I’ve had this book on my shelf for over a year, but its size put me off. Thanks to your remarkable review, I’m encouraged and am looking forward to reading it soon. Maybe even with my book group, since it was one of the nominations.
If you can get your club to commit to a book that long, then I promise you, there will be plenty to discuss. My club won’t read, or I should say, steers clear of anything over 400 pages. Also, I didn’t mention the Pacific Northwest but it’s part of the story too.
Les, I have it as well but I keep putting it off because of the size. I hope to read it later this year or perhaps in summer.
I found myself wanting to read The Overstory outside in nature so spring or summer would be a good time to pick it up.
So glad this worked out for you. Maybe I will get to my copy in the summer.
This is a great review, I can feel your passion for this book. I may get a copy.
This one doesn’t sound like it’s a book for me, but I love when other people relish in a book they’ve just read.
This sounds like a beautiful book, the size doesn’t put me off completely but I would need to wait for the right time.
Yes, the right time for sure. I picked it for my first book of the year so I felt pressured to read it even though I wasn’t quite in the mood for it but after a few pages I fell right in.
Great review, Ti. I might have mentioned that I borrowed the book from the library and only got to read the first section. Liked it so much that I went out and bought the paperback, but haven’t gotten back to it yet. Hope to do that within the next few months!
Yay, I look forward to reading it. So the ending was a surprise? The stories are independent but not linked till the end? I’m glad you liked it … and plan to get to it this year. I like how it’s about trees … and think of myself as outdoorsy so I think I will really get into it.
The stories probably link up about halfway thru. The ending was just surprising in the direction it took. Not a big reveal or anything.
I love Richard Powers but I have been avoiding this one – sounded a bit weird to me. But otherwise, he is definitely one of my favorite authors! My favorite is The Goldbug Variations – I have read it at least 3 times!
It’s definitely not weird but there is a heavy conservationist slant and it gets a little hippy-ish with the tree huggers but nature shines here. Anyone who feels cooped up from this shutdown will appreciate the way nature is depicted in this book.
I read Orfeo, another Powers book but never finished it and can’t remember why. I was liking it a lot.
And is The Goldbug Variations the actual title? I looked it up and can’t find it.
Actually I should have included a space – it is The Gold Bug Variations.