The Overstory (Powers)

There are not many people I defer to when it comes to my reading selections, so when one of those people said that The Overstory was not worth the time, I was inclined to take her at her word. But then I read an interview with Powers from Atlantic Monthly in which he discusses his reasons for writing the novel, and I realized that it was going to be less a novel and more of a meditation. That, together with my love of Powers’ prose, prompted me to give it a try with not lowered, but different expectations in mind.

And that worked. Powers has clearly become captivated by trees and all of their implications. He develops the literal and metaphorical meaning of trees to the fullest extent imaginable, and it is in those places that the book succeeds. Despite its 500 pages, there is not really a great deal of plot , and once we move past the first part of the book, the urgency of the developments that Powers describes does not match the practical and observational lyricism of the first part of the novel. Consequently, it feels forced.

I’m not sure how this merited a Pulitzer, but if you read the novel as more of a spiritual meditation and lamentation about the importance and plight of trees, you will be rewarded. You will find yourself studying the trees.

2 Replies to “The Overstory (Powers)”

  1. I agree. My book club chose this and several members really recommended it, so I was looking forward to it. My review at the end was largely, ok. But it felt like he was trying to echo Moby Dick’s “whale chapters” with his digressions on trees. But without either as compelling a plot or Melville’s ability to marry the “academic” and the narrative

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