The Overstory (Hardcover)

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The book begins with a section called Roots containing eight chapters, each devoted to an individual’s or couple’s backstory from 1950s-70s. In the next section, called Trunk, Powers picks up where the individual stories ended and starts weaving them together with a common thread: trees. Powers imparts a great deal of genuinely astonishing and fascinating history and science of trees and forests, seemingly effortlessly providing the reader with a completely new understanding of these usually ignored living beauties (with whom we share 25% of our genes) and their place in the earth’s biome. Sections called Crown and Seed bring us to the current and future state of trees, and humans, on earth. Overstory is both an exciting tale with compelling and moving narratives about people the reader comes to care deeply about and an education about trees as (or more) engaging and informative as the award winning book Hidden Life of Trees. I absolutely love Overstory.

— Kay Wosewick


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."

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393635522
ISBN-10: 039363552X
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2018
Pages: 512
Language: English