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Publisher's Summary

A monumental novel about reimagining our place in the living world, by one of our most "prodigiously talented" novelists (New York Times Book Review).

The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fable 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 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 Recorded Books

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Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Astonishingly powerful writing.

Where does The Overstory rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It’s up there with the top three.

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

As a book of short stories some resonate more than others. HOWEVER, you would just listen for the exquisitely skillful writing, it’s really quite beautiful.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. Well yes, I wanted to but the beauty of the short story is you can try them on in different moods, times of day, it’s in bite size pieces. There is an overarching narrative where each story reveals its connection to its neighbors. But, the skill of the writer is such that the spirit of each tale stays with you. You can stop and start and never risk missing the culmination. Most impressive book I’ve read in the past year, maybe longer.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

eye opening

I'm a fuel guzzling truck driver but this book made me wanna pull my semi to the side of the road And hug a tree

37 of 39 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant, life-changing

I seldom write reviews, and I very rarely give Five Stars, much less three of them. For me, a book has to be brilliantly written and address real issues of human life amidst the changes of world or planetary history. This has those traits. The last book I rated this highly was "The Book Thief," several years back. This book has me seeing trees differently, seeing our present dilemmas differently, and wondering on about the richly drawn characters Powers offers us. Suzanne Toren delivers a performance of a lifetime as the many individuals who make up this story, voicing them with a sympathy and knowledge of the character's traits that I doubt could be equalled. Bravo! and Brava! to author and narrator.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

We Are a Part of Nature

This majestic novel reminds us that we are not apart from Nature but are a part of Nature, and our survival may depend on our collective realization of that reality. Divided into four parts: Roots (which introduces the nine main characters), Trunk (which shows how the characters are related to one another, although several never actually meet), Crown (which catches up with the characters 20 years later), and Seeds (which shows you how each ends up). Powers creates a group of lively and believable characters, most born in the '50s and '60s, who emerge slowly and lushly over time, much like a stand of trees.

Perhaps the most interesting and riveting of characters is Dr. Patricia Westerford who conducts original research proving that trees are social creatures that "must have evolved ways to synchronize with each other." Rejected and ridiculed by the scientific establishment, she leaves academia to become forest ranger. Another character Adam Appich, a grad student in psychology, also fascinated me. He discovers that "humans need good stories to be persuaded by scientists' alarms." Late in the novel he concludes, "Humankind is deeply ill. The species won't last long. It was an aberrant experiment." I am not, however, certain that that is Powers' opinion.

While listening to "The Overstory," I felt the spirits of Thoreau and Muir nearby. Also nearly were: James Lovelock whose Gaia hypothesis postulates that the Earth functions as a self-regulating system, Donald Peattie's "Natural History of North American Trees," and German forester Peter Wohlleben's "The Hidden Life of Trees." It is interesting that Patricia Westerford shares the same initials as Peter Wohlleben.

This is one of Powers' finest works. I heartily recommend it to those who love Nature, especially trees and forests, and are worried about the fragile state of the environment around the world. This novel will draw you deeper and deeper into that complex, shimmering and often invisible world.

Finally, the Audible narrator Suzanne Toren is superb. A great novel requires a great narrator. Toren fits the bill. She brings "The Overstory" to life.

22 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Complex

Well worth one's time/credit. I probably should wait till I reread before reviewing but I am glad that I took a chance. I found the writing vivid and poetic and the characters engaging. Certainly the subject/problem is vitally important to all Earthlings. I loved this book, tho' the ending sort of ripped my heart out. Now I will check to see what else Powers has written.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Mind blowing

If we could send one book into orbit to tell whomever else it out there who we are (or were) and why we messed things up so fully, this one might be it. One of the best pieces of fiction I've ever read. Highly recommended.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

I love nature, but.....

This was not my typical genre to read, however, I am very interested in nature, how magical it is and how it all works. But! This book droned on and on, and I began to care less and less about the story and its characters about half way through. For me, it was just way too long.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Book is a master piece....narration though is aweful

I would and am recommending this book to those who would appreciate it....to read! Not to listen too. This was a my book club’s selection and I was hoping to listen to it on my frequent long drives. Unfortunately, I could not listen to it and instead bought the book and read it. Beautiful writing and excellent, provocative story. The narrator, however, tried to play all the parts of the many characters...including trying to mimic the way a deaf person (one of the main characters) might talk. She tried using the voice of men, women, young, old, country, well educated, not so much so, what ever ethnicity, etc. The book would have been so much better served if she had just read it! Granted it would be a difficult book to read and keep your audience with you since you could easily lose track of who’s speaking. Perhaps a cast of readers could have done it justice. Regardless, this narrators voice was not particularly pleasant to the ear ... especially when trying to mimic accents and other variations in verbal communication. If you want to experience this great work....just read it yourself! You will savor every word like a box of delicious chocolates. I thank the author for his wonderful gift!

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An Extraordinary Book!

I'm older and find it so wonderful that the young people coming up behind me are finding brand new ways of creating--writing, music, films--I'm reading books we wouldn't have imagined possible a decade ago. This book is brilliant and also impossible to describe so you're just going to have to hear it yourself. It's a book you will never regret giving your time.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Deep. Engaging. Wise. Unforgettable characters.

So much of the best and worst of human nature, set against a backdrop of slo-mo ecological collapse. The worst, of course, comes out in the interplay between politics and capitalism.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful