Friday, August 20, 2021

The Overstory (Book Review)

The Overstory by Richard Powers came highly recommended to me, and yet I didn't know what to expect. It's a fascinating read that weaves a love of trees with the histories of people. 

This book confused me at first. For a while it was seemingly scattered short stories or vignettes about people who had nothing to do with one another. Some element of tragedy was present in each. With the book clocking in at 502 pages I became concerned that if it were a book of unrelated short stories it would quickly become tiresome. Fortunately, the stories began to weave together.  

A work of fiction, The Overstory reads like the real-life account of the rise and fall of an 'eco-terrorist group,' as seen mostly through their eyes. I thought of it as a story from an alternate timeline with the same world history but different people and differences in details in the most recent several decades. This isn't speculative fiction, by any means. It's grounded in the facts and observations of the world we have. 

What came through time and again was the wonder of trees, the deep history of forests on this planet, and the brevity of human life...even perhaps the life of our species. We see this all through the eyes of very human, flawed, often quite earnest people. This is the sort of narrative that will remain with me for a while as I continue to process it.