** WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION 2019 **
A wondrous, exhilarating novel about nine strangers brought together by an unfolding natural catastrophe. The perfect literary escape.
'Really, just one of the best novels, period' Ann Patchett
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. An Air Force crewmember in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan.
This is the story of these and five other strangers, each summoned in different ways by the natural world, who are brought together in a last stand to save it from catastrophe.
'It's not possible for Powers to write an uninteresting book' Margaret Atwood
'Radical and exciting' Jessie Burton
'Breathtaking' Barbara Kingsolver
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The Overstory is an intricate, compassionate, and searching novel whose threads interlock like the roots of sequoia trees in a redwood forest. It starts a century before the central conflict—the timber wars in Oregon—and revolves around nine characters whose lives are dramatically impacted by trees. Richard Powers writes beautifully about the environment and its impact on human beings. His story urges us to see nature not as an abstract concept but as an inextricable part of our daily existence, surrounding us like a forest and moving through us like sap.
Occupying the same thematic terrain as Annie Proulx's Barkskins, the latest from Powers (Orfeo) is an impassioned but unsatisfying paean to the wonder of trees. Set primarily on the West Coast, the story revolves around nine characters, separated by age and geography, whose "lives have long been connected, deep underground." Among these are a wheelchair-bound computer game designer; a scientist who uncovers the forest's hidden communication systems; a psychologist studying the personality types of environmental activists; and a young woman who, after being electrocuted, hears voices urging her to save old-growth forests from logging. All are seduced by the majesty of trees and express their arboreal love in different ways: through scholarship, activism, art, and even violent resistance. Some of the prose soars, as when a redwood trunk shoots upward in a "russet, leathery apotheosis," while some lands with a thud: "We're cashing in a billion years of planetary savings bonds and blowing it on assorted bling." Powers's best works are thrilling accounts of characters blossoming as they pursue their intellectual passions; here, few of the earnest figures come alive on the page. While it teems with people, information, and ideas, the novel feels curiously barren.
This is a wonderfully written book that genuinely changes how you see the world. Highly recommended.