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

  • Hannah Greendale

    Powers’ structural approach to The Overstory breaks with traditional plotting. The result is two books in one, each designed to appeal to a different type of reader. The flaw in this approach is tha...

  • 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

    Update: on reflection, I got a bit excited about having a new Richard Powers book to read and I have definitely, despite what I say below, read better books this year. Consequently, my rating has drop...

  • Hugh

    Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018This is the most ambitious and complex book on the Booker longlist, and two thirds of the way through it, I was pretty sure it was heading for five stars and be...

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This amazing book connects specific trees to people or families and then the stories come together and morph into being about the environment, how trees relate to each other, and this underlying theme...

  • Meike

    Now Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018 Richard Powers goes eco-fiction: In "The Overstory", the real protagonists are trees - living, breathing, communicating, ever-evolving, hard-working, intel...

  • Melki

    "Thank you for the tools. The chests. The decking. The clothes closets. The paneling. I forget . . . Thank you," she says, following the ancient formula. "For all the gifts that you have given." And s...

  • 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...

  • Peter Boyle

    I reckon everyone has a tree story. Here's mine. When I was a boy, our family planted a wood of sitka spruce and lodgepole pine on a stretch of wasteland that surrounded our farm. The government provi...

  • Trudie

    Another hour. Deserts of infinite boredom punctuated by peaks of freakish intensityPowers doing my review writing for me. My reading experience of The Overstory often felt like a forced march of The...