The Overstory

The Overstory

A Novel

Book Club Kit - 2019
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10 books, 1 discussion guide, 6 week checkout. SUMMARY : 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, and five other strangers-each summoned in different ways by trees-are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent's few remaining acres of virgin forest. In his twelfth novel, National Book Award winner Richard Powers delivers a sweeping, impassioned novel of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of-and paean to-the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, exploring the essential conflict on this planet: the one taking place between humans and nonhumans. There is a world alongside ours-vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe. The Overstory is a book for all readers who despair of humanity's self-imposed separation from the rest of creation and who hope for the transformative, regenerating possibility of a homecoming. If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us? Listen. There's something you need to hear.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2019]
Copyright Date: ©2018
Branch Call Number: BOOK CLUB 2 GO POWERS
Characteristics: 10 books (502 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm) + 1 guide ; 1 canvas bag

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List - Dictionary Day Books
ArapahoeTina Oct 09, 2019

Overstory: the layer of foliage in a forest canopy

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ArapahoeJulieH Oct 31, 2018

The Overstory reveals the inter-relationship of trees as social fauna which communicate and exist for the benefit of their communities. This novel takes on a multi-narrative approach of nine characters including a homeless vet, a visionary botanist, an engineer, a visual artist, a game developer ... Read More »


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xiaojunbpl12
Feb 10, 2020

Monumental, I have zillion (non)reasons to love this book (e.g. I enjoyed “Hidden Life of Trees” many thought boring.)
But to readers who were not radicals, or were repelled by the marginal civil disobedient, or growing indifferent to environmentalists noise, or were drawn to romance, fantasy, suspense, fact based and reason seeking... there would be easily an entry point found at root of one the characters or tip of the branching plots, to grow into and blossom out an all-encompassing tree of life.

I considered author's oblique or elusive (disagreeing with what I held) when living through some parts/roles, but more or less satisfied at the ending. A classic!

P.S. Our legacy proved to turn living world bleak, but the author is more optimistic than I have believed. A few exemplary solutions are presented from representative protagonists:
1. Patricia's science-backed approach, as passionate as logical, I'd easily side with;
2. Radicals (and associates), from Mimi's circle of life to Nick's "STILL" art, from Doug "Fir" learning in confinement to Andrew "Maple" voluntary sentence to "eternity", set no frame of action but a mind opening to see beyond self.
3. Brinkman's, could awake generations of mainstream?
4. Neelay's AI, speculative, where I have the most doubts to influence and guide the younger generation, also the most fascinating!

Ruminating:
envy of living in a Tree house;
guilt for reading books made of trees.

b
bibken
Feb 09, 2020

I found the book uneven from chapter to chapter BUT the best chapters (most of them) left me in awe of the author's skill in crafting a story - and developing characters - of overwhelming beauty, pathos, and lyricism.

If you are open to having your mind blown by the selection and placement of words from a dictionary, as much as any book I know of, this will do it.

Perhaps it's helps that I find trees, and the natural world generally, remarkable.

w
wyenotgo
Jan 27, 2020

"The best argument in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story."
We live in a world where almost everyone seems to have made up their minds about every topic imaginable, everyone is shouting at those who oppose their views and no one is listening. When the contentious issue of profit vs. the environment (as if it could possibly be that simple!) arises, our society has become starkly divided into two opposing camps, each convinced that the other has lost sight of reality and abandoned rational thought. So Powers has set out to tell us a good story. And he uses every bit of his exceptional skills and breadth of knowledge in doing so.
Ostensibly, the book is about trees: and about those who seek to understand, revere and protect them vs. those whose business it is to exploit them. But of course, this is a Richard Powers book so it's nowhere near that simple. Let us not mince words: This is a subversive book and Powers is hell-bent on driving home his message that the path of wanton destruction of our natural world is a march toward doom — not just for the trees but for the rest of the ecosystem and humanity along with it. Anyone who regards "tree-huggers" with disdain will hate this book; in fact no one of that persuasion is likely to bother reading it. So, with regret, I have to conclude that neither his "best argument" of scientific facts nor his "good story" is going to change anyone's mind. But that does not in any way diminish the value of what he has written.
Powers first tells eight introductory stories, introducing characters with no obvious connection to each other but he manages to connect the dots later on and achieve convergence, a skill equaled by few novelists today. And at least one of those introductory stories, that of the scientist, Patricia Westerford could easily stand alone, not just as a complete work but possibly as one of the best novelettes I've ever read. It seems improbable that a character as wonderful as Patricia was conjured out of nothing; more likely she was based on a real person who somehow touched Powers' life. And each of the other characters enriches the story arc with their presence.
Powers asks a lot of his reader. He stretches boundaries and asks us to just accept (or shrug off) some of his tenuous analogies
As with any good yarn, after all the scenarios have been set up and the characters and each of their dilemmas have been introduced, the action tends to speed up toward the end. And yet, at the conclusion, there is so much left unfinished. It would entirely make sense to me, after reading page 502, to go back to page 3 and carry on reading.

m
MEILEEANDERSON
Jan 23, 2020

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to look at trees the same way again. The author found a way to make trees infinitely more interesting. I recommend having a dictionary handy when you read it, readers will find numerous botany terms. There's a modern-day fairy tale flair to this work. I really enjoyed reading this story.

m
Mooseum
Dec 27, 2019

This book was enthusiastically recommended by several friends, two of them writers. And yet subjectively, the book never grabbed me.

b
Biblio784
Dec 21, 2019

One of the best books I've read in a long time. One to savor, read thoughtfully. I will definitely buy myself a copy...need to reread it...want to underline, highlight and margin-comment.

m
mikearmstrong149
Dec 05, 2019

Tuesday April 28, 2020 Conifer Book Club AND Tuesday, September 8, 2020 Evergreen Book Club

t
thea17
Nov 22, 2019

Tom Lombardo?

r
reader925
Nov 13, 2019

One of the most amazing books I’ve read in years! Poetry and botany combined with fascinating characters. The only character I had trouble relating to was the adult Adam. I just finished it and I’m tempted to sit down and start reading it all over again. I don’t feel that way about very many books; I could count them on one hand. This is definitely one of them! Amazing!

k
Kmcalpine
Nov 12, 2019

Rec by Ari

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m0mmyl00
Aug 09, 2019

Page 84 of the hardback: “...the greatest flaw of the species is its overwhelming tendency to mistake agreement for truth.”

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m0mmyl00
Aug 09, 2019

Page 7 of the hardback: “Life is a battle between the Maker and His creation.”

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