The Overstory: A Novel (Paperback)
On the surface, this is the story of nine people who in completely different ways come to understand that we are intricately connected to the natural world, to trees in particular, but that is like saying King Lear is about a father/daughter relationship. It is about families whose legacies shape their descendants in wholly unintended ways and about the conversations we hold with beings our souls recognize as sentient though reason and society claim otherwise. It is about the desperate delusions of cultural suicide and the hope that there will be survivors. There are passages in this book you will want to reread for the depth of wisdom, some for the beauty of the language, and some for the utter tragedy of our tale. Few books monumentally shift the plates upon which our world view sits, so that upon their conclusion, we find ourselves staring at objects and people we have looked at every day through a completely different lens. What kind of bookseller would I be if I didn't make sure all of you read this?— From Linda's Adult Picks
April 2018 Indie Next List
“The Overstory, which contains an energy like that of the trees that link its intertwining stories, is nothing short of stunning. Such links between the human and non-human are mostly hidden to us, but only because we tend not to look very closely (or prefer not to see). Powers' most beautiful sentences are also the most devastating, which hints at the novel's hope that death - whether of a person or a plant - is never quite the end that it seems. Until, that is, we look, or prefer, finally, to see. As we are instructed near the novel's end, 'What you make from a tree should be at least as miraculous as what you cut down.' Plainly put: The Overstory is perhaps as close to such a miracle as we currently deserve.”
— Brad Johnson, East Bay Booksellers, Oakland, CA
Summer 2019 Reading Group Indie Next List
“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 that, it’s an incredibly human story with a huge cast of richly imagined characters that you’ll never forget. With writing that is dense but accessible, Powers is a master at intersecting science, art, and spirituality without sacrificing plot. I pity the next customer who comes into our store looking for ‘a book about trees’ because Powers has given me a lot to talk about.”
— Logan Farmer, Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins, CO
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
New York Times Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book and a Washington Post, Time, Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2018
"The best novel ever written about trees, and really just one of the best novels, period." —Ann Patchett
The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work 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, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel 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. 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.
About the Author
Richard Powers is the author of twelve novels. His most recent, The Overstory, won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. He is also the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Book Award, and he has been a four-time National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. He lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Should be mandatory reading the world over.
— Emilia Clarke
The best book I’ve read in 10 years. It’s a remarkable piece of literature, and the moment it speaks to is climate change. So, for me, it’s a lodestone. It’s a mind-opening fiction, and it connects us all in a very positive way to the things that we have to do if we want to regain our planet.
— Emma Thompson
An ingeniously structured narrative that branches and canopies like the trees at the core of the story whose wonder and connectivity echo those of the humans living amongst them.
— citation from the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction
This book is beyond special.… It’s a kind of breakthrough in the ways we think about and understand the world around us, at a moment when that is desperately needed.
— Bill McKibben
The best novels change the way you see. Richard Powers’s The Overstory does this. Haunting.
— Geraldine Brooks
A towering achievement by a major writer.
— Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland
This ambitious novel soars up through the canopy of American literature and remakes the landscape of environmental fiction.… Remarkable.
— Ron Charles
Powers is the rare American novelist writing in the grand realist tradition, daring to cast himself, in the critic Peter Brooks’s term, as a ‘historian of contemporary society.’ He has the courage and intellectual stamina to explore our most complex social questions with originality, nuance, and an innate skepticism about dogma. At a time when literary convention favors novelists who write narrowly about personal experience, Powers’s ambit is refreshingly unfashionable, restoring to the form an authority it has shirked.
— Nathaniel Rich
Monumental… The Overstory accomplishes what few living writers from either camp, art or science, could attempt. Using the tools of the story, he pulls readers heart-first into a perspective so much longer-lived and more subtly developed than the human purview that we gain glimpses of a vast, primordial sensibility, while watching our own kind get whittled down to size.… A gigantic fable of genuine truths.
— Barbara Kingsolver
A big, ambitious epic.… Powers juggles the personal dramas of his far-flung cast with vigor and clarity. The human elements of the book—the arcs his characters follow over the decades from crusading passion to muddled regret and a sense of failure—are thoroughly compelling. So are the extra-human elements, thanks to the extraordinary imaginative flights of Powers’s prose, which persuades you on the very first page that you’re hearing the voices of trees as they chide our species.
— Michael Upchurch