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.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.