The Overstory: A Novel (Paperback)
I began reading The Overstory at a retreat for writers and artists in the North Carolina mountains, surrounded by trees showing off their fall foliage. The week seemed to be all about trees: tree poems and stories by the writers, pottery imprinted with leaves, tree paintings, and even a beautiful tree necklace created by one of the jewelsmiths. This morning when I turned the final page, the bare trees were silhouetted against a cold gray sky. The understory, or the growth and secret life of trees, is at the heart of this novel. The overstory refers to the characters, who defended and cared for trees at the risk of their personal safety. Tree huggers and a scientist, a couple whose days were spent identifying trees--all understood the importance and contributions of the woodlands and forests. Our natural world is more threatened than ever, and knowledge and inspiration are crucial to our survival. This novel provides both.— Mamie
April 2018 Indie Next List
“The Overstory, which contains an energy like that of the trees that link its intertwining stories, is nothing short of stunning. Such links between the human and non-human are mostly hidden to us, but only because we tend not to look very closely (or prefer not to see). Powers' most beautiful sentences are also the most devastating, which hints at the novel's hope that death - whether of a person or a plant - is never quite the end that it seems. Until, that is, we look, or prefer, finally, to see. As we are instructed near the novel's end, 'What you make from a tree should be at least as miraculous as what you cut down.' Plainly put: The Overstory is perhaps as close to such a miracle as we currently deserve.”
— Brad Johnson, East Bay Booksellers, Oakland, CA
Summer 2019 Reading Group Indie Next List
“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 culture. More than that, it’s an incredibly human story with a huge cast of richly imagined characters that you’ll never forget. With writing that is dense but accessible, Powers is a master at intersecting science, art, and spirituality without sacrificing plot. I pity the next customer who comes into our store looking for ‘a book about trees’ because Powers has given me a lot to talk about.”
— Logan Farmer, Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins, CO
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.
About the Author
Richard Powers is the author of thirteen novels, including The Overstory and Orfeo, and the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Book Award. He lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
It changed how I thought about the Earth and our place in it.... It changed how I see things and that’s always, for me, a mark of a book worth reading.
— Barack Obama
The best book I’ve read in 10 years. It’s a remarkable piece of literature, and the moment it speaks to is climate change. So, for me, it’s a lodestone. It’s a mind-opening fiction, and it connects us all in a very positive way to the things that we have to do if we want to regain our planet.
— Emma Thompson
An ingeniously structured narrative that branches and canopies like the trees at the core of the story whose wonder and connectivity echo those of the humans living amongst them.
— citation from the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction
This book is beyond special.… It’s a kind of breakthrough in the ways we think about and understand the world around us, at a moment when that is desperately needed.
— Bill McKibben
A towering achievement by a major writer.
— Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland
Monumental… The Overstory accomplishes what few living writers from either camp, art or science, could attempt. Using the tools of the story, he pulls readers heart-first into a perspective so much longer-lived and more subtly developed than the human purview that we gain glimpses of a vast, primordial sensibility, while watching our own kind get whittled down to size.… A gigantic fable of genuine truths.
— Barbara Kingsolver - The New York Times Book Review
The best novels change the way you see. Richard Powers’s The Overstory does this. Haunting.
— Geraldine Brooks
This ambitious novel soars up through the canopy of American literature and remakes the landscape of environmental fiction.… Remarkable.
— Ron Charles - The Washington Post
The best novel ever written about trees, and really, just one of the best novels, period.
— Ann Patchett
Should be mandatory reading the world over.
— Emilia Clarke