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The Overstory


"Monumental… A gigantic fable of genuine truths."—Barbara Kingsolver, The New ...
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Discuss The Overstory by Richard Powers:
Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

Created: 07/26/19

Replies: 17

Posted Jul. 26, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1946

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Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?


Posted Aug. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
joanew

Join Date: 12/27/13

Posts: 6

RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

At the beginning of the book I found it somewhat boring. I thought trees are out there dropping their leaves, changing their colors and surviving through the 4 seasons. I realized in reading further that trees are alive and should be treated with respect. There were so many experiences that people encountered and interacted with trees that proved they are a living entity and a very big part of our lives. At the end of the book the knowledge that was given to me about these wonders of nature has changed my outlook on all of nature.


Posted Aug. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
paulak

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 92

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RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

I grew up in a town built around trees, played in woods within skipping distance of our house and live in a community where trees are not only plentiful but regularly interrupt life's daily routines when storms cause them to topple across our streets. Trees have always been the backdrop to my life where I saw them but soon forgot them. "The Overstory" makes me sad on so many different levels: sad that children may never have the chance that I had to live with trees as part of their ramblings. Sad that we tear down trees and forests at an ever-increasing rate, in the spirit of building a better place but in reality threatening our world. And sad that Richard Powers' prose will likely be read by mostly like-minded souls.

"The Overstory" is not what I would call an easily-accessible tale. Powers makes you work, and sometimes work hard, to navigate through its layers that wind, curlique, climb and ramble in the way of its forests. I found the ramble worthwhile, certainly inspiring and toward the end just a touch exasperating as I tried to keep up with some of the surreal plot turns and language.

"The Overstory" covers more tree names than I have ever heard but starts with the American Chestnut. I thought about the symbolism of this particular tree that was mostly decimated in the US beginning with a blight in the early 1900's. I had a delightful surprise when reading an article from "American Forests" describing the work to breed blight-resistant chestnut trees in a spot that is mere miles from my home town:

"Planting will continue in national forests. And next spring in Pennsylvania’s Westmoreland County, about 500 more of the blight-resistant chestnuts will be planted on a private, cutover forest plot, Steiner says. This planting, at a place fittingly known as Chestnut Ridge, will intersperse the chestnuts with other native species — white pine, red oak, black cherry, sugar maple — “the first attempt to see how they compete in a real-world situation,” says Sara Fitzsimmons, another chestnut researcher at Penn State."

From https://www.americanforests.org/magazine/article/revival-of-the-american-chestnut/

I take this as a small sign of hope, in the same way that the chestnut appeared in Ray and Dorothy Brinkman's yard. Other than that, "The Overstory" did not leave me with a great sense of hope and much the same despair I have when reading anything dealing with our overheating, crumbling planet.


Posted Aug. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jwbriggs13

Join Date: 05/09/12

Posts: 37

RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

I truly enjoyed this book. The structure of the book might be challenging for some readers. I found myself well rewarded for taking on the challenge. The story telling was great, but I think my greatest reward was in the many lessons about trees. I thought I loved trees, but reading this book showed me how very shallow my knowledge is. I love a few trees, but now I know most trees are strangers to me. I look forward to getting acquainted.

The characters are well developed and fascinating. I found the story compelling. It made me uncomfortable at times and joyful at other times. It smashed hope, restored hope, and then left hope hanging in the balance.


Posted Aug. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebajane

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 239

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RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

At first, I thought it was going to be chapter after chapter of different characters whose lives revolved around trees. When I realized that the book circled back to each character, I had to go back and skim over their stories to keep everyone straight. This wasn’t a book I could read nonstop. There is so much information that I had to read a chapter a night basically to digest everything. The author is extremely knowledgeable about trees. It’s a book that needs reading a few times to grasp all of the information and psychology


Posted Aug. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Andrea

Join Date: 08/31/18

Posts: 10

RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

I found this book to be beautifully crafted, persistently thought-provoking, and environmentally edifying. It made me ponder over environmental interrelationships and realize that we truly need to understand more about them and their relative buffer systems in order to perform in our best mutualistic capacity upon Earth’s stage. With the development of such “gossamer” thoughts, as well as the incessant search for new informational tidbits and tracking of proliferative details, it took me forever to finish reading this book.


Posted Aug. 06, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
KelHydra

Join Date: 08/05/19

Posts: 5

RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

I very much enjoyed the first 1/3 of the book with the chapters devoted to the various characters. Some were more relateable than others for me (my favorites were Nick and Adam) but I thought they were all well written and mostly believable. I honestly stalled out with reading after the Olivia chapter. I'm probably about half-way through now, and I will finish ;), I'm just finding it slow-going after what I consider to be the better beginning chapters.

The structure of the story kind of reminded me of The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell. I thought the agency of the trees and the various characters/pov's being intertwined were similar to the mosquitoes and the multi-generational characters in The Old Drift.


Posted Aug. 07, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
susiej

Join Date: 10/15/14

Posts: 231

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RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

I enjoyed the first section of the book the most; that said, I didn't not enjoy the remainder of the book - I simply respond more to story than argument and as the book progressed, I found the message becoming at times and in ways confrontational, the voices louder and angrier in places. The vast amount of information offered made me begin to think more about the author than the subject matter. I wanted to know how it possible to be so erudite with regard to one subject - what sort of research or preparation he had to do to write such a tome. I also wanted to know about earlier works - are they all written in such a complex manner with so many layers of information. The purpose of reading is enjoyment and education, I feel, and Powers took me way more deeply into the educational realm than I expected when I began. This made the book more time-consuming, yet interesting, than I initially anticipated; however, in the end, like so many of the lofty trees he described, I did not find it ending on much of an uplifting note. For that, I cannot blame him.
But in light of all this, I wonder what section of the reading world will hear his message. He entertains and educates, and does all truthfully, but I wonder how many will hear his beautifully crafted message.


Posted Aug. 07, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ruthiea

Join Date: 02/03/14

Posts: 174

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RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

I enjoyed the first part of the book, although initially I thought this was a book of short stories. Then parts with Neelay and Dorothy and Ray, for me did not need to be in this book. I loved the parts with Patricia and the chapters where the characters were actively protesting -even though they were horrifying - and some of the final 1/3 of the book, but for me it was a lot of work, and yet I fou nd that if I put it down I forgot what each character was doing. I am not afraid of a challenging read, but for me there was just too much build-up for too little reward for the Ray/Dorothy/Neellay characters.
The book left me feeling helpless, hopeless, angry, afraid, and also amazed.


Posted Aug. 09, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reidob

Join Date: 08/09/19

Posts: 1

RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

I thought it was overwritten and could have used some judicious editing. I also grew tired of being beaten over the head with the repetitive drumbeat of the idea that trees are better and more important than humans and deserve our unswerving respect. I don't necessarily disagree, but after restating this idea for the hundredth time, I wished the author would simply move on to something else for a while.


Posted Aug. 10, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
renem

Join Date: 12/01/16

Posts: 257

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RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

Agree with rebajane, needs reading a few times but I don't think I would.


Posted Aug. 12, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurer

Join Date: 11/20/14

Posts: 12

RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

I found the writing really beautiful, overall. I was definitely challenged to keep the characters' identities straight after awhile but the read was well worth the effort. Descriptions of people's relationships with particular trees particularly were very interesting to me. The information regarding the ability of forest trees to protect and provide their own survival, for example, was fascinating. Overall, I would recommend this book to others.


Posted Aug. 17, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
MarieA

Join Date: 10/12/11

Posts: 212

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RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

This book was so much more than I expected it to be. I wasn't sure that the subject matter was one that really interested me. The more I read, the more I wanted to know. I was thrilled that Powers did not preach but rather presented what he had to say in beautifully written prose and well-defined characters. I found myself engaged with the subject matter and the interrelated roles of the characters in preserving our environment for future generations. It is a tale of the importance of humanity's responsibility to protect and to preserve.


Posted Aug. 18, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorianbc

Join Date: 04/25/11

Posts: 33

RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

I loved this book. As many have said, it is challenging yet so rewarding. I appreciated the fact that it unique in its style and approach.


Posted Aug. 18, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianaps

Join Date: 05/29/15

Posts: 368

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RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

I had a little problem with it in the beginning, trying to figure out where it was going. Once I got to the Trunk section it was easier. I thought it was very interesting in so many ways. I learned a lot about trees and protesters and living in a tree.


Posted Aug. 20, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
BuffaloGirl

Join Date: 01/13/18

Posts: 64

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RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

Beautiful book; I love the author's use of the English language and the flow of his writing. One of the comments above was that probably only people who share a view similar to his will read the book. I sadly have to agree. At our monthly book club meeting, we go around the room and everyone names the book they are currently reading in addition to the club selection and tells a little bit about it. When I said I was reading The Overstory and told a little bit about it, everyone laughed and said, "Only you would read a book about trees. Please don't pick that for your selection when it's your turn!" I told them it was a prize winner and they were truly missing out by not reading it. Hopefully, one or two will pick it up.


Posted Aug. 23, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
gdlenehan

Join Date: 06/22/11

Posts: 35

RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

I understand why The Overstory won the Pulitzer Prize. The story is so timely, and the message is obviously important, because the news is full of stories that describe how our earth’s climate is changing. Our loss of glaciers and the rising sea levels are dramatic. This is a book that everyone needs to read, but unfortunately that will not happen. Although it is an interesting story, beautifully told, it is a challenging book to read.
I enjoyed it, but could not read it without breaks...it was too overwhelmingly depressing.
I also liked how the book was structured, and how all the characters came together at the end.


Posted Sep. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
BuffaloGirl

Join Date: 01/13/18

Posts: 64

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RE: Overall, what do you think of The Overstory?

I've been thinking more and more about this book. After I finished it, I laid awake that night thinking about it and still, many days later, am still thinking about it. It is definitely a 5 on a scale of 1-5 and makes me want to go back and rethink other books which I rated a 4 or 5!


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