The Overstory

The Overstory

by Richard Powers


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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
New York Times Bestseller

A New York Times Notable Book and a Washington Post, Time, Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2018

"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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393356687
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/02/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 115
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Richard Powers is the author of twelve novels. His most recent, The Overstory, won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. He is also the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Book Award, and he has been a four-time National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. He lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.


Urbana, Illinois

Date of Birth:

June 18, 1957

Place of Birth:

Evanston, Illinois


M.A., University of Illinois, 1979

Customer Reviews

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The Overstory: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel changed the way I see the world. Am eternally grateful to Powers for using his MacArthur fellowship to research and write a paradigm-changing story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know very little about trees but the poetry he uses to describe them make them seem like familiar friends. The book will change your perspective of time and the connection between all living things.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
The Overstory by Richard Powers is a very highly recommended, masterful, epic saga about trees and our relationship to them. "The tree is saying things, in words before words." There are nine main characters in this story that spans over fifty years. The novel is broken down into four main sections, Roots, Trunk, Crown, and Seeds. The chapters in each section follow the main characters introduced in "Roots." The characters include Nick Hoel. Mimi Ma, Adam Appicj, Ray and Dorothy, Doug Pavlicek, Neelay Mehta, Patricia Westerford, and Olivia Vandergriff. Their individual stories are presented like short stories at the beginning, with a common theme between them. Then in "Trunk" the characters begin to meet or join forces, have epiphanies, or start their life's work. They are all summoned in different ways by trees to take a stand to save the few remaining acres of virgin forest from industrial harvesting and environmental destruction. The writing is exquisite and meticulous in this finely detailed novel. I appreciated the introduction and development of the characters in the opening chapters, which resemble short stories. This choice to introduce all of these characters before the larger story took shape worked well for me and I was pleased to then see the characters begin to join together. The connectedness of all things is depicted in the overall theme and in the arrangement of the story. Powers includes information about individual species of trees throughout the narrative. The term "Eco Opera" is an apt description for this monumental novel. It is an emotional novel and I did find myself tearing up or becoming incensed at several points. The time span of the story serves well when considering the growth of a tree. While the novel does not attempt to persuade any one to become an eco-terrorist or take on environmental activism, it does have some wonderful insight into how humans need to realize that everything is connected and how losing parts of the natural world, trees, could eventually lead to our own demise. The Overstory is a novel to relish and appreciate the fine writing and the message. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous 9 months ago
Vivid, yet ultimately boring. Christology, not spiritualslity, ruins its little actual merit. Undeserving of Pulitzer. In the thankful final word, I hated this book!
Anonymous 10 months ago
I will never see a tree as just a plant again. This book is a poetic, lyrical justification for "there is a God/Goddess" and now as humans we need to listen and hopes he/she heard our pleas of forgiveness for our utter deafness to being.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So many things you probably never thought about trees... their biology, chemistry, history, and power described in achingly beautiful detail. Numerous interconnecting tendrils of plot lines and lives that overlap even when they never cross paths directly. Hauntingly important and timely.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous 16 days ago
It had so much potential to lead environmental movement and change but left me sad and disappointed. I some of what is written is misleading and blatantly incorrect. Too many dead trees in the forest is bad and weeds left to go wild can ruin the ecology. It also made me realize how important it is to be a positive force for change as an advocate for the wilderness rather than an activist.
Anonymous 7 months ago
A fresh perspective on the natural order of things.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Anonymous 11 months ago
Read this book of sharing hope for the future.
HnLA 11 months ago
The best book I have read in at least 5 years. I started reading it on a plane and was crying by page 10. The writing is so evocative. The story is really interesting, but there is this undefinable quality to this book, that makes it so wonderful. You really feel every character he writes, even if a minor brief sketch. There is a lot to learn about trees and nature that adds to the enjoyment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Davids3 More than 1 year ago
I finally gave up on Overstory at about page 250. It moves so slowly i finally just didn't care what happened to the many characters. The author never gave much detail about them and way detail to where they were and, of course, the trees. I get that part, but perhaps now and then there could be some movement, some decision to do something, maybe even tell us how it is going. Also, the writer has a style that i can only say is jagged making it hard to read, at least for me. The choice of words and their positioning makes you go back and think, what did he say again--that doesn't fit. Maybe something wonderful happened at the end and they saved the redwoods, but i really lost interest.
Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
This book was a little different than the books that I usually pick up. I like different so I was eager to give this one a try. I found that I enjoyed this book the most when I read just a little bit at a time so I spent over a month with this one working it around other books. It was a book that I found fairly easy to set aside but I always seemed to circle back to it before long. While I didn't love the book, I did like it and am glad that I decided to give it a try. I knew that this was a book about trees before I started reading and it was. Kind of. Trees do play a very large role in the story but I really saw this as a book about people. The book was told through the stories of several people whose lives were shaped or touched by the trees and nature around them. Each of the characters had a unique and special relationship with the world around them and I was inspired by the measures that they took to protect their world. The book initially reads like a collection of short stories. We meet each of the characters in their younger years, usually as either children or teens, and see how trees have impacted their lives. Then the book shifts gears and the lives of these characters start to converge and they start to have an impact on each other. As the book drew closer to the end, the characters untangled themselves from each other and went back to a separate existence. I enjoyed each of the characters' stories but the strongest part of the book for me was when the majority of the characters were together worked towards a shared cause. I really felt their passion as they worked to save the trees and the environment as a whole. The book lost a lot of momentum for me as it drew to a close. I found that the characters were not nearly as interesting apart as they had been together and the story became quite depressing. I did find the writing to be quite beautiful. The descriptions used really brought nature to life and made me want to see it preserved. I felt the impact of its destruction and understood why the characters were willing to sacrifice so much to protect what they could. I do think that this book could have been trimmed a bit. It did feel overly long at times. There was one character that had a story that was really very separate from the other characters and could have been completely omitted in my opinion. I am glad that I read this book. It made me really think about our environment and the impact of our behaviors on the world around us. I wouldn't hesitate to read more from Richard Powers in the future. I received a copy of this book from W.W. Norton.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting writing, but seventy-five pages in, still depressing reading, especially before sleep. The important info about the trees is great, and though the writer seems to be encouraging awareness and treating the trees with the respect they deserve, the sad events (at least up to the seventy-five page mark) leading to their incredible value make it difficult to appreciate. I'll keep reading, but if it continues this way, doubtful I will finish the next three hundred plus pages.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Beautifully written and so thought-provoking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Permeates one’s being