The Overstory by Richard Powers


The Overstory is a novel that explores the relationship between humans and trees. The book follows the stories of nine Americans whose unique experiences with trees bring them together to address the destruction of forests.

The novel questions how humanity can grow to recognize the life-or-death matter of saving the trees considering what has proven again and again to be inherent to human nature: the unstoppable desire to “grow harder; grow faster.” The Overstory acknowledges the many flaws in human nature and psychology—the unstoppable desire to “grow harder; grow faster.”

The main themes of the book include the dangers of deforestation, the nature of trees, and the importance of environmentalism. Trees emerge as characters in their own right in this novel. On the one hand, they behave in ways that are familiar to us: they collaborate, socialize, assist, live and die, fight, and more.

However, Powers makes sure not to anthropomorphize them too much; after all, they aren’t exactly like us, and if we are really to face what we’ve done to the planet and find out ways to behave better, we have to see trees for what they are.

What I Liked

Lovely, lyrical writing.

What I Did Not Like

It had too many characters and overlapping stories. It took a long time to get going.

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