The Overstory

last updated 2020-01-20

by Richard Powers

...the word tree and the word truth come from the same root.

A colleague of mine said that her masters studies in forestry were effectively two years of mourning. I don't think I will truly understand. But I do think Powers brings a piece of that elegy to the masses.

There has been a recent - and welcome - rush of enthusiasm to "solve climate change." The optimism is important, and necessary, but at times it feels like it ignores the battles already lost in the anthropocene. Carbon sequestration and emission control is crucial, of course. So too is the preservation of our last old growth forests, older than modern civilization. The two feel the same to me: the curbing of human appetite.

Given the subject matter, The Overstory is no light read. But it is engrossing to whip through the protagonists' lives as if you the reader were witnessing their stories as a tree would. I'm perplexed by Power's ability to write so fluidly about different cultures, the characters so convincing.

Many of my closest friends have told me that the book has changed their lives. Among them, my younger brother recently sought out one of the few deciduous conifers in the world, the {|metasequoia glyptostroboides} which happened to be in a nearby cemetery.

Compiled 2024-04-21