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Janet

The Overstory

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Janet

I read fast and I read a lot so it made some sense to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, which gives me access to multiple books each month for less than the price that any one would cost to purchase. However, aside from some newer authors trying to gain a following, many of the books available are somewhat less than stellar. Some interesting, some things I certainly would never purchase, some authors that I would pay to read again or definitely would not pay to read. But in the past week I found myself craving something really well-written, so I searched among favorite authors and highly rated offerings. 

 

I found a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by author Richard Powers that I knew little about except that there didn't seem to be reviews indicating a dark or upsetting story. (I don't know about everyone else, but I am hyper-vigilant about avoiding upsetting stories these days; perhaps it's just because real life is too upsetting on its own.)

 

This novel is a delight, and I wanted to share it before I've even finished the read. It consists of chapters that each tell a story about a different individual and his/her life, and every story is somehow connected to trees. There are hints about connections among the individuals, but at the moment I'm enjoying each story on its own and learning a lot about different types of trees and the lives of trees. 

 

Last night I was a bit down and got absorbed in one story that was a bit longer than most. I was sleepy but needed to see how it turned out. The chapter ended with these words: "There are a hundred thousand species of love, separately invented, each more ingenious than the last, and every one of them keeps making things." I slept peacefully after that. 

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Michèle
7 hours ago, Janet said:

I found a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by author Richard Powers that I knew little about except that there didn't seem to be reviews indicating a dark or upsetting story. (I don't know about everyone else, but I am hyper-vigilant about avoiding upsetting stories these days; perhaps it's just because real life is too upsetting on its own.)

 

This novel is a delight, and I wanted to share it before I've even finished the read. It consists of chapters that each tell a story about a different individual and his/her life, and every story is somehow connected to trees. There are hints about connections among the individuals, but at the moment I'm enjoying each story on its own and learning a lot about different types of trees and the lives of trees. 

Yes to the dark or upsetting stories as news/movies/books - I don't read or watch stuff that anymore that I know will upset me. This leaves me mostly with Pixar movies and children's books 😄 however - and thank you so much for sharing this book with us!, I will put this book on my reading list. I love trees and I find the nature of trees and their wellbeing is hugely underestimated and underappreciated. A little while ago, I received this message: Trees are the secret guardians of life.

And the quote about love is very beautiful.

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Janet

Ok, so I'm about 70% through this book now and an update is in order. Writing is still very good, the individuals DO connect, and it's all connected to trees.

 

As for not being an upsetting story: well, at this point in the book, I can't say it's not upsetting. I seem to remember from actual history of events described in the story that the ending is likely to be more uplifting than it is at this point of the story -- although I can't bring myself to go look it up in case I'm wrong.

 

I can't say the book should be avoided because I'm a bit upset by it right now. The message needed to be conveyed despite or perhaps because of upset.

 

Stay tuned for my final verdict. 

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Janet

I finally finished this book, and I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. 

 

In the end, the first part of the book is far more engaging. The "good news" actual history that I faintly remembered was only temporarily good news, and I wonder if many people like myself took note of that news and then assumed that the battle was won when it was only a temporary reprieve. So, yes, the book does have upsetting content from the point of view of trees and our planet, and Powers' attempt to suggest that there might be hope fell a little short. Still, this is a very good read and worth the time. This quote is repeated toward the end: 

 

“The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.”

 

That's quite a useful thing to remember I think. 

 

At the end I wished the author had provided references for some of the information about trees in this book because I assume he told true facts about trees given the way he wrote about them, but now I want to learn more so I was left hanging as to where to see related information. For instance, did you know that apple seeds do not grow trees that produce fruit that faithfully matches the quality and taste of the parent? They all produce their own thing, so people trying to grow Granny Smith or Fuji or whatever type apple must do so by grafting some of the original tree onto the young plant. 

 

A tree expert character in the book writes a very popular story about trees, and I wanted to read THAT book! Interestingly, when I searched for "The Overstory" in Goodreads, I found a book written back in 2004 called "The Overstory Book" (by Craig R. Elevitch) which MIGHT be the source of this story. In addition, a second book by that character was called something like "The Secret Life of Trees" and comments in Goodreads let me know that there actually is a book by a similar title by Peter Wohlleben: "The Hidden Life of Trees." I just purchased that one!

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Michèle

Re: growing apples that's right, plus you'll need another apple tree of the same type nearby for pollinating.

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Wendy
8 hours ago, Janet said:

"The Hidden Life of Trees."

I've wanted to read that since it came out.  I hear it's wonderful! 

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