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Wed, Nov. 13

The Overstory by Richard Powers

Reviewed by Susan Lang, Peregrine Book Company Event Coordinator

Reviewed by Susan Lang, Peregrine Book Company Event Coordinator

It is rare that I can say that a book is one of the absolute best I’ve read in years, but The Overstory, by MacArthur Genius and National Book Award winner, Richard Powers, is such a book. It is a big book, 502 superbly written pages that will pull you into the world of story and rob you all sense of time and place other than the reality you have fallen into. At least that’s what happened to me, so much so that I finally had to ban myself from any more pages until I competed several important projects. Otherwise I would tell my self ‘well, I’ll just read one more section,’ ‘Or I’ll just read for half an hour,’ then find myself coming up for air an hour and a half or more later, ready to dive back into the story.

All I can tell you without giving a spoiler alert is that the novel’s story circles around the wonders of trees that most of us take for granted, and the characters who do their bidding–but don’t think that means the story is at all boring or preachy. The first section, Roots, introduces us to nine main characters who couldn’t be more different from each other in backgrounds, interests and personalities. Yet these divergent beings will all be pulled together by the one thread of significance that passes though all of their lives—some kind of connection in their background to a tree that finally blossoms like a germinating seed when given the right soil of place and time, setting into motion gallant though not always legal actions.

Characters find themselves transformed, doing things they would never have believed they were capable of. And readers, too, can find themselves transformed as they taste the fish and huckleberries that live high in the canopy of a redwood old growth forest, where salamanders cavort; transformed they watch such wonders as hundreds of Myrtle trees scattered all suddenly flowering throughout the forest on a single day, Bertholletia that grow piñata cannonballs filled with nuts, and other trees that make rain, that tell time, that predict the weather, and that warn other trees of the approach of dangerous parasites. And these things are not the fantasy of science fiction but well documented in the annals of recent scientific study, here presented in a magnificent story that you’ll be grateful to have discovered.

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