Overstory, Go Plant a Tree

Time. The concept differs based on one’s perspective. Ants. Humans. Trees. God. Does your life span, minutes to decades, change how you think? And if time were infinite, how would you respond? While reading the Overstory, I considered how we grow, love, and view the world can change based on our own unique perspective. Did you grow up on the far side of the world in a small village? Go to college? Live on a farm?

But I suppose none of that matters as this is a book about trees. How they fight for life, socialize with their fellow seedlings, and communicate to those under their watch, including ourselves. They do this over centuries. Time an infinite loop.

That’s the meta genius of Richard Powers. He writes characters I want to hope for and places them in a setting revolving around the ever almost omniscient presence of forests and trees. An American Chestnut Tree on a family farm. A scientist trying to understand the intertwined rain forest. And the most compelling tale in the book? A quadriplegic trying to communicate with his estranged wife. So close, yet so far away.

Typically, I take notes as I read on a Kindle, but I went back to the tried and true hardback format. I read this book months ago, but parts of the story remain vivid:

  • Without spoiling the ending, the story of the accountant and his spouse haunts me. What lesson did I learn? Say I love you to your significant other. Never let them go.
  • Beings of considerable size and girth, take their time communicating with one another through the root systems. Forests are interconnected. They call out to the heroes in this tale.
  • The American Chestnut Tree died out across the United States at the turn of the century. A disease brought over from China decimated millions. But the American chestnut is not extinct as the blight kills the above-ground portion. However, the root system can survive and form new sprouts. Hopefully, we can bring back our storied forests.
  • I’m skeptical of the lumber industry and felt guilty reading a paperback version of the book. Sigh.

Read this book:

At the close, I’ll never look at a tree the same way, and, more importantly, I planted multiple in my backyard (and took one large one out of the ground). Call me a tree hugger, spreading the love of the million tree challenge. So, read this book and change your life. Powers cast a vision. When you’re done, plant a tree. You’ll be glad you did.

Don’t take my word as gospel, read other reviews for Power’s opus:

Pulitzer Prize Winning

The Guardian Review

NewYork Times

Kindle Snippet (Playing with a new Gutenblock):