Category Archives: Book Review

Review: The Overstory

The Overstory

The Overstory
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.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Memory Police

The Memory Police

The Memory Police
By Yoko Ogawa, Translated by Stephen Snyder
Vintage, 9781101911815, July 2020, 288pp.

The Short of It:

Ethereal and beautiful, tinged with sadness.

The Rest of It:

On a remote island, random objects begin to disappear. Birds, roses, ribbons, etc. The inhabitants wake to a feeling of change yet can’t put their finger on what has changed until they interact with others on the island. The strange thing is that the feeling that the disappearance causes precedes the actual disappearance which is followed through to completion by the inhabitants themselves. So when roses disappear, the inhabitants gather up all the roses to destroy them and send them down a river.

The disappearances are enforced by the Memory Police. How they know when someone is holding out is not explained but if someone tries to preserve something that has disappeared, they are taken away. Eventually, when all traces are removed, most of the inhabitants can no longer recall the item at all. All memory of the item has disappeared as well. But there are some who never forget. The memories of these items remain in them, and for some, they’ve even been able to preserve the actual item, such as a piece of candy. As living becomes more difficult and the situation more dire, you can’t help but compare what is going on with Orwell’s 1984.

The three main characters are for the most part, unnamed. Our protagonist, a young woman, lost both her parents and lives a solitary life. She is a writer and befriended by her editor, only known as “R” and a kind old man who knew her mother. The three navigate these disappearances as best they can but “R” happens to be one of the people who can remember and so he must go into hiding with their help. What will disappear next?

This story is beautifully written. I found myself rereading many passages as I went along. The author’s skill at evoking a particular memory is especially wonderful. I found myself mourning all the things we have lost during this pandemic. The smell of a wonderful meal, served to me in a bustling restaurant filled with laughter and happy people. Or I found myself missing movie theatres and that anticipation you feel when the previews roll or the smell of hot buttered popcorn while sitting back to enjoy a really good film. The story made me feel all kinds of things. Yes, it made me a little sad but also hopeful because I am fairly certain that the tangible things we’ve lost during this pandemic are only temporary losses, not like the ones in the story.

The author’s inspiration was Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. This makes sense when you consider the hiding that must take place to keep these people safe. The Memory Police is a wonderful read. I have found a new favorite author in Ogawa and can’t wait to read another book by her.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.