Book Review–The Overstory by Richard Powers

I was introduced to this book through the North Country Herbalists book club. I sadly did not finish it is time for the discussion, which would have been great because their is literally so much to unpack in this book. Still I am so very glad I read it.

I started out with very little information about the subject of The Overstory–though I assumed it had something to do with trees. The first section of the book is entitled “Root” and contains all sorts of vignettes of various people in different times. There did not seem to be much rhyme or reason and I had extreme difficulty connecting with some of the characters.

By the second section, “trunk” the characters were beginning to meet and the story was starting to make sense but it was starting to get more challenging in other ways. The concepts and assumptions were starting to stretch me a bit, though I had been introduced to them recently through other classes. Namely that trees connect to each other, that the forest is a living thing in and of itself, not only a collection of individuals. The roots of trees connect and share information such as what pests are present and even send out warning signals.

The backdrop of the book is the heyday of the Pacific Northwest lumber wars, an event I knew little about at the time, but pitted human interest–economic interest, against protecting the last giants of a forest. The politics and passions or the movement are brilliantly played out.

The author’s characters mention several times in the book that stories are the only true way to change a person’s mind, and Powers does a good job presenting an interesting idea (one that smacks of truth) through a story that draws you in and makes you both furious and hopeful at the same time.

It inspired me to change how I view forests and how I view my future. I now have a goal of returning more land to wild spaces. Barbara Kingsolver said of the book, “Monumental. . .A gigantic fable of genuine truths.”

Look for the amazing descriptions of the eco systems existing in the tops of some of the worlds largest trees. A great read.