Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction
Winner of the William Dean Howells Medal
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
Over One Year on the New York Times Bestseller List
A New York Times Notable Book and a Washington Post, Time, Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
"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.
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Divinely braided words
I highlighted so many parts of this book as I read it because Powers managed to somehow impeccably articulate observations and life experiences with his words. Reading this book was a gift I hope to unwrap again and again.
Soooo well written
Beautiful prose and certainly a relevant message for our times. I cannot believe the depth of knowledge the author has in so many disparate fields. Super impressive. I didn’t love the end but nevertheless think it is an important and elegant novel!
You hear or you don’t
Reading reviews one would think that two different books are being reviewed here. Some will never be able to hear the forest but all of us will pay for it.