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2019 TOB Shortlist Books > The Overstory

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

The longest book on the shortlist this year, right?


message 2: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Blue | 24 comments I'm on page 200. So far it's a book I admire more than I like. The structure is impressive, but I'm not connecting with the characters much yet. Then again, maybe that's the point. Maybe I'm supposed to like the trees more than the people.


message 3: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments I'm going to have to check this book out soon. I can't even imagine how this story plays out, based on the comments I've heard thus far. But my love of trees, and tree metaphors is deep, so I'm thinking it may resonate, even if the people don't.


message 4: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Arnold | 889 comments Carmel wrote: "I'm going to have to check this book out soon. I can't even imagine how this story plays out, based on the comments I've heard thus far. But my love of trees, and tree metaphors is deep, so I'm thi..."

Then it should be perfect for you, Carmel! (And welcome to TOB! I learned so many fascinating things (all true, I did a lot of Googling while reading because I found them hard to believe) and the way Powers connects the trees with the story events/character growth is just amazing. I don't often read 500-plus page books more than once, but this is one I'm sure I'll read again (hopefully before the tournament.) Enjoy!


message 5: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments It's hard to imagine a world without the majestic beauty of trees.


message 6: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments Elizabeth Arnold wrote: "Carmel wrote: "I'm going to have to check this book out soon. I can't even imagine how this story plays out, based on the comments I've heard thus far. But my love of trees, and tree metaphors is d..."

Thank you, Elizabeth! I'm intrigued. It's on my kindle...maybe it will be the next one to be read! January is a month where I'll have extra reading time. I look forward to learning more about trees!


message 7: by Rachelnyc (last edited Dec 22, 2018 07:07PM) (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments I enjoyed this much more than I expected to but I agree with others that said they didn't connect much with the characters except maybe Patricia whose story moved me more than the others.

I live in a big city and although I visit our parks often, I have to admit I don't think about the trees and forest as much as I probably should. This book definitely reminded me how much we owe to nature.


message 8: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 132 comments With a Powers novel I often find myself wishing there was less story, less happenings. It's a weird situation sometimes where I feel an author has written past the perfect book, and written himself into a less-perfect book. I'm not sure if it's fair to judge an author for writing past perfection though--the perfection is still there. So for instance with this novel I would have been completely wowed if Powers had just stayed with the chestnut story, the Hoel family.


message 9: by C (new)

C | 558 comments Collin wrote: "It's hard to imagine a world without the majestic beauty of trees."

I'm usually appreciating the trees and all they give humans: shade, beauty, food, heat, fuel, AIR.... but I was just thinking today.... in the early days of humans, if there were no trees (you know, if humans could survive without air), then humans could never have made any kind of boats without trees, therefore the early days of any sort of water transportation would have taken much much longer. It's just another degree of HOW MUCH trees have actually done for humans. And I think I might not have thought of this if I hadn't read The Overstory this summer. Needless to say, it's a favorite. It's one of those "hug" books for me that you guys were talking about the other day.

@Lark - I can see what you are saying about Powers possibly writing past perfection but it would be difficult for me to pinpoint why exactly?


message 10: by C (new)

C | 558 comments On other ToB books I've read, I just finished Severance today and I really liked it. It turned out better than I thought the book COULD be based on reading the description for it, if that makes sense. It's one of those characters in solitude books that I love, combined with an apocalypse scenario. But in this case, there is some denial from the characters about this apocalypse. I'd read whatever Ling Ma writes. It reminded me of The Book of M. These two books would have made a killer play-in round.


message 11: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1099 comments I liked the first fourth or so of this book and then got increasingly annoyed as Powers grew more polemical. I couldn't help comparing this to Annie Proulx' Barkskins, another ambitious novel dealing with trees and the fate of the planet, and Powers suffered in the comparison.


message 12: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 186 comments Jan, I agree with your choice of descriptor: “polemical.” I’d add preachy and dogmatic to the list. And just so no one misunderstands me, I am pro-environment, pro-trees, pro-activists, etc. I think the message of this novel is so, so important, but the message overwhelms the story in this case, making the novel a real slog for me. Great political/environmental treatise, so-so novel.


message 13: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1099 comments Gwendolyn wrote: "the message overwhelms the story in this case..."

Exactly!


message 14: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 30, 2019 07:41PM) (new)

Before I started this book, I expected to think it was at least 100 pages too long. Now that I am dnf'ing it at the halfway point, I know that it is at least 300 pages too long. The first third read like a great short story collection. I wish Powers had stopped there. Every subsequent page adds to the redundancy and diminishes the story. If I keep going, it's likely I will end up resenting this book. I'm stopping while I still like it.


message 15: by Sherri (new)

Sherri (sherribark) | 358 comments Whew, I'm struggling with this book. I have moments when I want to scream "this is the best book ever!" And then I come crashing to the ground and feel like I'm stuck in quicksand. I'm at around 40% and I think the quicksand is winning.

Someone please tell me something to motivate me to keep going :).


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Sherri wrote: "Whew, I'm struggling with this book. I have moments when I want to scream "this is the best book ever!" And then I come crashing to the ground and feel like I'm stuck in quicksand. I'm at around 40..."

Exactly the experience I had with it. I kept coming back to GR to get the motivation to continue, but I gave up the battle at the halfway point. Good luck!


message 17: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 785 comments Well, luckily, I have a long commute to work and could listen to it over a couple of weeks. However -- it badly needed editing. Overwritten. Over-long. Over-earnest. It could have used a little humor and at least 200 fewer pages.


message 18: by Gretchen (new)

Gretchen (gretchena) | 7 comments I'm so glad to see the comments here. I'm listening while driving, and the there have been passages so beautiful they make me hurt. And then, there's more. And more. And more. And I'm worried that the poetry is getting lost in the increasingly convoluted plot.

The opening story with the chestnut on its own would have been a perfect short story. (In fact when it ended I went back and looked to see if this was more of a short story collection than a novel.)

I will likely finish (5 hours to go) because so much of the writing has been so incredible. But I'm not sure this is one I'd want to reread.


message 19: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments I have finished this book, finally. And agree with you, Gretchen, that in the beginning it was beautiful in the poetic passages, and images those passages evoked. And then, about half way through, the plot was losing me. I am mulling over my review, which will be a mixed bag. I loved much of the writing, but not all of the detailed story or the length it took to tell it.


message 20: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments My more complete thoughts on this one, for any interested. A most unusual story.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 21: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 241 comments I finally finished listening to this today.

SO LONG, Richard Powers.

I mostly liked the 4 eco warriors and their observer & how their plots grew together, especially alongside Patty's observations and all she learned about not just same types of trees communicating, but entire forests.

And I liked the programmer and how he was inspired by the trees (and the themes with him - A Separate Peace, kites, gods, etc) though he was definitely the hardest to believe in as a real person in the ways I could see the others. (Runner up: Maidenhair the Mythic Maiden)

If only Dot & Ray were edited out. It might not have been 'tight' at that point, but my attention would have been far more focused.

My husband and I went for a walk in a nature center in our city today, and I quite enjoyed seeing the decomposing branches and bugs and leaf mold and dirt and such - so well done, Powers, getting me to look at trees with fresh eyes.


message 22: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments Melanie wrote: "I finally finished listening to this today.

SO LONG, Richard Powers.

I mostly liked the 4 eco warriors and their observer & how their plots grew together, especially alongside Patty's observatio..."


Interesting.... Dot and Ray were the ones I also questioned as to relevance. They stuck out like a misshapen branch from the story to me. ;)


message 23: by C (new)

C | 558 comments Carmel wrote: "Melanie wrote: "I finally finished listening to this today.

SO LONG, Richard Powers.

I mostly liked the 4 eco warriors and their observer & how their plots grew together, especially alongside Pa..."


Oh Dot and Ray like a misshapen branch. Good one --that really fits with the amazing structure of the book. haha. I think Powers just really wanted to include their story in the book, even if it didn't fit in too much with the other parts. He couldn't leave the idea of their jungle?


message 24: by Meg (new)

Meg (gemgt) | 9 comments Dot and Ray - I think were connected because their “daughter” I thought was Olivia, giving her an even more magical air. When they first introduced her, she called her dad, who was a trademark lawyer I think. And that’s what Ray was so at first in the short story section I thought they were going to end up being her parents. But then they couldn’t have kids. But then they at the end they started talking about their “daughter” and it sounded a lot like her and maybe I’m just making things up and reading into things, but it made her “one with the trees” type of story line more real to me. Anyone else see a connection there?

I don’t know if I’ve posted here yet but I’ve been reading the board for awhile as I read through the short list. This was not one of my favorite books. Moments of brilliance but i felt myself forcing myself to keep going. Almost fell asleep while reading a few times (granted, I work a lot and have 3 kids under 5, so I’m always tired). But in the end, not enjoyable, although I saw the potential.


message 25: by C (new)

C | 558 comments Meg wrote: "Dot and Ray - I think were connected because their “daughter” I thought was Olivia, giving her an even more magical air. When they first introduced her, she called her dad, who was a trademark lawy..."

Oh yeah -- good catch. I noticed that too, when they mentioned the trademark lawyer... I thought it could be a connection.


message 26: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments C wrote: "Meg wrote: "Dot and Ray - I think were connected because their “daughter” I thought was Olivia, giving her an even more magical air. When they first introduced her, she called her dad, who was a tr..."

I thought that about Oliva too. But then as I read on I thought Dot and Ray remained childless.


message 27: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 463 comments I've finished this in time for Wednesday's match-up, kicking and screaming. How is it that the book started well and got worse the longer it went on?

Powers writes women as though he were a much older man, which is also how he writes PoC. This was a super-charged White Male Novel.

And sermons aren't fun, even when one agrees with them.


message 28: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments C wrote: "Meg wrote: "Dot and Ray - I think were connected because their “daughter” I thought was Olivia, giving her an even more magical air. When they first introduced her, she called her dad, who was a tr..."

That could be a connection...but in the structure of the novel, I didn't catch it. Good thought, though.

I had to force myself to keep reading, too, after about the midway point, even though I appreciated parts of it.


message 29: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 960 comments I listened to the audio and finished a few days ago. I enjoyed it overall but some parts did get "lost in the trees." I appreciated the reminder of the wonder and importance of nature though. Not planning to read it again though, and I'm so glad MStSK zombied back for the win after losing to this one.


message 30: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments Can you believe he won the Pulitzer?


message 31: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments Janet wrote: "Can you believe he won the Pulitzer?"

Nope....


message 32: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 463 comments Janet wrote: "Can you believe he won the Pulitzer?"

Not over The Great Believers, no. Or There There, for that matter.


message 33: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 132 comments The Pulitzer has this added requirement of the winner needing to reflect 'American Life.' So I'm honestly thrilled that There, There was a finalist. Although the last decade has been fairly diverse in the books picked, it's definitely a prize that has skewed toward the Manifest Destiny/white male view of "American Life," where The Overstory fits the sweet spot.


message 34: by C (new)

C | 558 comments I was thrilled The Overstory won. Sorry, you guys didn't sway me during ToB..


message 35: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 785 comments Sheesh.


message 36: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments C wrote: "I was thrilled The Overstory won. Sorry, you guys didn't sway me during ToB.."

And that's just ok! I loved some things about it, just not all of it. :)


message 37: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 785 comments C - my "sheesh" was not in response to you! Timing made it look that way. No, just expressing my general exasperation. Clearly, YMV.


message 38: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1099 comments At least I’m happy with the two other finalists, There There and The Great Believers. And if TO’s Pulitzer gets a few more people to develop a more respectful attitude toward the natural world, that’s gotta be good.


message 39: by C (new)

C | 558 comments Ellen - I didn't take it as a response to my comment, no worries. :D

Jan - my sentiments exactly - the book being getting more recognition would hopefully help the natural world a bit.


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