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The Overstory

Narrated by: Suzanne Toren
Length: 22 hrs and 58 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4.5 out of 5 stars (29 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction 2019

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018

Random House presents the audiobook edition of The Overstory by Richard Powers, read by Suzanne Toren.

The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late 20th-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond:

An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan.
An artist inherits 100 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.

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.

©2018 Richard Powers (P)2018 Random House Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"It's a masterpiece." (Tim Winton)

"It’s not possible for Powers to write an uninteresting book." (Margaret Atwood)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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The most difficult book you have to read

This story is the literary mirror that you will struggle to look into. It's beautifully written; poetic at times and at times, pure story-telling in the ancient ways that stories were told. Full of myth-in-the-making it tells of the anti-heros that in time will become the seeds of gods. It will be very difficult to read at times because the truth hurts, but you will feel lighter, wiser and More when you are done.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Enchanting, tragic, hopeful

Enchanting - I am a professional artist, with a fascination for forests and trees and have done many works centered around this subject matter. Richard Powers' prose inspired an other world level of appreciation and awareness for me. I loved the intertwining stories of the main characters to trees and each other.

Tragic - A work of fiction I know, but so much of it is based on truths and reality. What humans do! Have done and continue to do to the environment. Every human should read this story.

Hopeful - That should people wake up to the true value of trees and breathe in the beauty and wonder of forests there will be hope. And having said that they will recover if left in peace, in spite of humans.

I do agree that there was a point at which the story could have ended earlier than it did but I for one was glad to hear more. In fact I listened to the book twice for any hidden intricacies that I may have missed first time round and to repeat the magic of the book's true heros : the trees. I loved it.

The reader's voice I found to be rather austere for my taste. If you feel the same (listening to the sample) don't let it put you off... she does a great job all the same.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A remarkable and complex effort.

This book has changed my life (as it should). Haunting, dazzling, daunting, superb, devastating and so, so BEAUTIFUL.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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So important, but needs sustained attention

I loved this book but it is speaking to the converted. All the authorial devices used, I get. But. Many who should be learning what this book so earnestly attempts to teach, will give up because of its flaws.
What a shame. Most of it is so beautiful. But repetition and polemics repel many people, particularly if they don’t love trees. This tale will not convert them. So sorry.
The voice actor is splendid.

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Changed forevet

Brilliantly written and read. I wished it could have lasted longer. Deserved rhe man booker prize.

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So boring

Really well written , but so long , it didn’t need to be.

Also the narrator shouldn’t do Asian accents, like really shouldn’t .

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Could have been an interesting book...

I found it really difficult to finish the book. Although I like to general idea of the book — I really wanted to like it — I didn’t find the story and the naration engaging enough. I am also annoyed with the way the narrator mimicked different accents.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • ANNABEL
  • 02-18-19

This book is amazing

I think everyone should read The Overstory. It’s a life changer. It does not anthropomorphise trees and nature but makes a very good argument for leaving them alone to save us as well as them. This wonderful, upsetting at times but also a fantastic story is a cry for conservation and a vital warning to self obsessed, money hungry humans....

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-29-19

Extraordinary

In a way, this novel tells us more about the understory than The Overstory. In spite of painting a world, ours, on the brink of disaster, it gives us defiance against so called ‘human progress’, sensitive intelligence towards and solidarity with Nature, a generous love of humanity, and, most of all, the possibility of redemption for our crimes against the Earth. And trees are the giant heroes of this story in an astonishingly empathetic, intelligent and generous way.
The rich, poetical, inventive, beautiful language of Richard Powers is a joy to listen to. And the reader conveys all these and the strength of the story perfectly.
Some readers might find this novel periphrastic and over long, but, in my opinion, this format could be seen as an almost pictorial representation of the shape and nature of trees themselves - trunks, growing, expanding, intertwining branches, leaves and roots.
Wonderful and necessary reading.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-22-19

Phenomenal

Richard Powers writes beautifully, researches meticulously and weaves stories that are completely engrossing and totally convincing. The Overstory is both a moving and powerful work of fiction and a convincing manifesto for trees.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Iain Crockett
  • 08-18-19

wow what a read!

If you care about our planet and its forests this book may be life changing. It has certainly affected me. long ranging story of the interconnections between people and between plants. Going to read it again. It should be on the syllabus of every school

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-05-19

so good I listened twice

good story with well written characters. it has made me think about trees differently. the writing is almost poetic. I think the ending was a bit disappointing but a great book beautifully read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • A. Jones
  • 08-02-19

wonderful book

I learnt so much about trees and history from this book. Definitely one to listen to over and over again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • gregfclare
  • 08-01-19

High Expectations

Despite feeling an affinity with the causes and dilemmas of the characters in their introductions, I didn't find I had a significant emotional response to their individual stories as the interweaving plot developed. There is one moment of dramatic and traumatic climax but after that I found that it was a rather flat ride to a rather flat conclusion.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • mr a thomson
  • 07-10-19

This book is one I will be recommending!!!

I find it hard to put into words how much this book impacted me. It is more like five stories which blend into one with an important message for us all. I loved it!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Marion F.S.
  • 07-10-19

Aaah! Brilliant.

If you are a ’book-reading-person’; read this book. If you are not a ‘book-reading-person’, this is part of what you are missing out on. You can however love the Overstory anyhow in the forest.

I read “The Secret Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben two summers ago. The Overstory is for me a refresher and reminder of the awe we owe life - and trees, told through the lives of people connected to them, as we are; every one of us.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • W R Kemble-Clarkson
  • 06-18-19

Extraordinary, profound and timely

The story is an intricate, beautiful and captivating series of stories that intertwine and stretch over a century of life in America against a backdrop of man being largely blind to the wonders of trees and nature. A fascinating story about trees, humanity and how our past and futures are so closely linked.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-17-18

A mind changing book!

An amazing story that has changed the way I look at both mankind and trees alike, quite literally. I thought I loved trees before but have a new appreciation! Has made me rethink some of my choices, big and small. A great story, a little difficult to follow at times, particularly in first half, but worth the challenge.
Highly recommend!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Marita
  • 02-06-19

Masterpiece

I loved this book. It was complex, enlightening, thoughtful, deeply spiritual and instructive. I'm now in love with trees, and have a lot more understanding of people who are prepared to stick their necks out for what they believe in. The reading was probably the best I've heard - many different voices, all convincing and engaging. My current favourite book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • jelaiw
  • 02-03-19

Tedious

As an avid listener to books, I found this reading difficult to engage - too earnest in its tone which overwhelmed characters. I really wanted to like it - a subject dear to me. Maybe it was too literal in writing about such an expansive topic. An edit or short story format may have done justice the scope or intention

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Hannah Petroni
  • 01-11-19

Captivated from the first words

I loved this book! Its fantastic reading, as several great stories that grow, build, connect and diverge, until you realise Richard Powers has created a book that reflects its subject matter in every possible way and suddenly your mind is blown.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Tess Uncle
  • 10-10-19

Powerful story

This is great. Beautifully told, you follow the lives of a handful of characters held together by trees. Recommend.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • jane
  • 10-08-19

Insight and defeat

A great big story with wonderful insights into trees but overall it is a story of defeat, I felt down and sad for weeks as trees and their human protectors are defeated by humans

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  • Madonna
  • 09-25-19

if you care for the future - read this book

a wonderful work of fact & fiction placing the natural world where it belongs💖. thank you!

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  • Roslyn
  • 09-21-19

A masterful reading of a magical book

This lyric reading washed over me with an ocean of memories, images. and ideas. I'm so grateful to get the chance to revisit my abiding reverence for trees.

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  • Jutta Zotz
  • 08-02-19

A masterpiece

A thought-provoking and moving work of literature.
This book will change the way you view life.

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  • helmand mandozay
  • 06-14-19

beautiful

we need more stories like this in our troubled times; more stories with soul and a feeling for the overstory ... of which we are desperate, confused, holy threads