The Overstory

The Overstory

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."

Title:The Overstory
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780393635522
Format Type:

About Richard Powers

is the author of twelve novels, most recently


    The Overstory Reviews

  • Ron Charles

    Richard Powers’s “The Overstory” soars up through the canopy of American literature and remakes the landscape of environmental fiction.Long celebrated for his compelling, cerebral books, Powers ...

  • Neil

    Two quotes from different parts of this book:"The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story."And"Yes! And what do all good stories d...

  • Paul Fulcher

    The Overstory is the first Richard Powers novel I have read but he, and indeed this book, comes highly recommended (not least by my good Goodreads friend Neil) and this was certainly a striking if fla...

  • Jonfaith

    The only thing that really counts is hoarding a little bit more.There's a strange thread running through this novel. It concerns a psychologist and his work on cognitive blindness. The theme is hammer...

  • Blair

    The Overstory is the second Richard Powers book I have read – after Plowing the Dark – and although I liked this a lot more, I find it equally difficult to talk about. Perhaps it's simply the sc...

  • Nathan

    Highly recommended to those who value the character=centric, plotdriven novel about important contemporary issues. Powers has all his stuff lined up and under control. There is of course a degree of a...

  • Logan Farmer

    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 cultu...

  • Steve Donoghue

    In this latest novel by one of the best living writers, the world's trees are talking, murmuring to a handful of very different individual humans - murmuring strange and quietly alarming things about ...

  • Venero Armanno

    A brilliant treatise on the value of trees and nature, the interconnection between all things, humans (unfortunately, more often as destroyers than nurturers) included. The structure of the novel rese...

  • David Joy

    Trying to explain Richard Powers' Overstory a few weeks back I told someone that it was as if Wendell Berry had written a work of magical realism. I don't know if that's exactly right or not now, but ...