This book got me into trees, which goes to show you the wondrous things that books can do. The Overstory seems to ask the reader to accept that trees have consciousness and can even make moral choices, and while I fully submit to the idea that life and reality are far, far more mysterious and wondrous than humans can yet understand, I have rather strong doubts about this particular claim. But still. Still. This novel shows us something big and true that most of us do not tend to see and that isn’t all that bad a description of great literature, it seems to me.

Powers starts the novel out so brilliantly with a series of character sketches linking his human creations to the natural world in ways seen and unseen, sending me off on Google searches to learn more about chestnuts and banyans and mulberries and elms, and I was fascinated.

I then feared for a stretch of the second half of this doorstop novel that he was descending into heavy handedness and mind closing didacticism. Brutal men in police uniforms operating in the service of corporations and state power may be a real life thing but it can make for an eye rolling scene in literature. And it seemed he was heading for a grand finish of nihilistic doomsday-ism. But no, he branches off away from that future, sends out a bud of new life, that left me rising out of my chair in gratitude for this mighty work.

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