an array of human temperaments and predicaments as manifold as Charles Dickens’ or Leo Tolstoy’s . No reading group should be without this book club companion to Richard Powers's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Overstory.This comprehensive guide includes useful literary context; a full plot summary, discussion of themes and symbols; detailed character notes; thought-provoking discussion questions; recommended further reading and a quick … Emmett is not very patient with his brother's differences. This is rewarding at first, but he realizes that his dedication and work have been wasted when a man at a bar tells him that the only people to profit from this are actually the logging and construction companies. The Overstory is a book for all readers who despair of humanity’s self-imposed separation from the rest of creation and who hope for the transformative, regenerating possibility of a homecoming. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Nor . A Norwegian immigrant who works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a young man until he marries an Irish girl, Vi, and moves to Iowa. He is particularly close to his father and the two spend the boy’s youth building computers and coding. In her later years she agonizes over her actions and tries to come to terms with them, and with her relationship with the trees. The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. We won’t be dispensing with the social, the political—not by a long shot. Readers’ questions about The Overstory. The Overstory has a … It seemed to me that we had been at war for a long time, trees and people, and I wondered if it might be possible for things ever to go any other way. For other characters, the path is more intuitive, sensual, and mystical. When he uses a curse word with her, she grows angry and plans to punish him. "Roots": Douglas Pavlicek through Olivia Vandergriff. Richard Powers' The Overstory (2018) is an ambitious, profound novel with an urgent environmental message. His fame grows in the valley as he puts out his greatest creation, Mastery, and its even more accomplished successors. His heroic actions in helping his crew escape net him numerous military awards, but he has a bum leg and is discharged. This ambitious novel soars up through the canopy of American literature and remakes the landscape of environmental fiction”; the San Francisco Chronicle called it “a rousing, full-throated hymn to Nature’s grandeur”; the Times (London) said the work “is very nearly a masterpiece . The Overstory follows nine characters who all in various ways and to varying degrees come to understand the importance of trees. When the scramble for the future down in the valley was too much for me, I would head up to walk in the woods. This period of researching and writing The Overstory was “one of the happiest periods of my life,” he told an interviewer, and “this book has changed my life profoundly.”, Powers explains that his goal was to raise consciousness about what humans are doing to the planet. A young woman who stays with him one night finds his journal of his earlier deeds and turns him in. She is smart, opinionated, fierce. Of course, this is an in-joke, too, because The Overstory is full of all these things: drama, development, colliding hopes and fears, tangled plots and lots of characters. A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. Adam's brother. In higher education he studied with a renowned professor, then began his own graduate school program. Frank's young son. One night when she is high, she touches an electrical socket and dies from electrocution. The art and antiquities dealer Mimi consults about selling the scroll. She decides to leave Ray but he suffers a brain aneurysm. Guardian (UK) How about the last 20 years or longer? He travels the country with no specific destination in mind, and, to his disgust, begins to see the deforestation that is taking place. At least three main characters never converge on the main story. Douglas desperately wants to remain with Mimi, but she prohibits this so the authorities will not find them out. The Overstory study guide contains a biography of Richard Powers, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. By making the game designer Neelay Mehta a major character in this story, Powers shows readers that virtual reality – alternative story lines, alternative futures – will be at the heart of this novel. Instead, he falls out the tree and she awkwardly comes to visit him in the hospital and return his notebook to him. After the last action goes awry and Olivia is killed, Nick becomes estranged from the others. She works at a research station and marries its station manager, a kindly older man named Dennis. Dorothy, however, is restless and begins having an affair. When he is a teenager, he falls out of a tree and is paralyzed from the waist down, needing a wheelchair and care for the rest of his life. As an activist, Olivia becomes increasingly more spiritual, prophetic, and removed from the day-to-day. While she plans to only stay with him until he stabilizes, she eventually commits to him and the extensive care he requires for the long-term. He hurts Adam and Adam's mother at least once. Powers explains, “I was teaching at Stanford and living in Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley. They read, take up multiple hobbies, and continue to act. Not affiliated with Harvard College. She vanishes without a trace when she is a young woman, an event which haunts the family. Nick engages in acts of eco-terrorism with his peers, his main job the writing of searing and convicting messages to the public. If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us? The kindly station manager at the site where Patricia finds work after her reputation and research are rehabilitated. A research scientist Patricia meets in the woods where she is working for the BLM. The Overstory leaves you with a slightly adjusted frame of reference…What was happening to his characters passed into my conscience, like alcohol into the bloodstream, and left a feeling behind of grief or guilt, even after I put it down.” —Benjamin Markovits, The Guardian Douglas is galvanized into more aggressive action. The author of a work that Adam becomes obsessed with, Rabinowski is also a professor at Fortuna College and helps Adam matriculate there as well. Within a few months, I quit my job at Stanford and devoted myself full time to writing The Overstory.”, Powers began researching, reading more than one hundred books that included field guides, scientific tomes, and other esoteric works. He sends his son away to escape the imminent Communist repression; readers later learn he was sent to a work camp. The two spend a year in Mimas together and fall in love. Five of the characters — Nicholas, Olivia, Douglas, Mimi, and Adam — will come together as eco-activists and, ultimately, eco-warriors/eco-terrorists (depending on one’s point of view). After the group disbands, he continues on in his teaching career and marries and has a child. Neelay's English teacher who becomes frustrated with the boy when she sees him coding in class and not paying attention to the novels they are discussing. After joining forces with Doug, she moves to the Northwest. He gets involved in the movement and moves into eco-terrorism. Which of the characters do you most relate to and why? Nick is somewhat of a slacker at the beginning of the book. It honors all those, like your family, who, despite terrible pressures and violence stood up for, stand up for the trees…more This book is written for you. After he hears the news, he suffers a brain aneurysm. She fears no physical harm, either from nature or the forces against the protestors. The Overstory by Richard Powers is a 2018 Pulitzer Prize winning novel which explores the topic of trees and humanity's relation to - and destruction of - the environment through the lens of an Ensemble Cast of nine characters, each with their own lives and backstories that are all - some directly, and others more subtly - connected by trees. She and Moses are killed when their office is bombed. It might be a novel that reaches out for the unattainable and falls short of it, or a novel that overshoots its own good intentions. Douglas has no family and so enlists in various institutions that can provide him with one. He keeps his promise to his father and continues the daily ritual and its "blind purpose" of photographing the tree. She takes the tree name "Mulberry" because her father planted a mulberry tree in their yard. Free download or read online The Overstory pdf (ePUB) book. 37 questions answered. The Overstory Character List Olivia Vandergriff (Maidenhair). He is never caught by the authorities. I have never read anything so pessimistic and yet so hopeful.”. This is the central contention in The Overstory: that entities in nature, and life itself, have agency, purpose, and personhood—and we have ethical obligations to all such persons. Neelay's mother. Her understanding of the eventual doom of the planet prompts her to start Seedbank, a place where thousands of seeds from around the world can be kept safe for some unknowable future in which they may be used to repopulate the world’s forests. Author Bio • Birth—June 18, 1957 • Where—Evanston, Illinois, USA • Education—M.A., University of Illinois • Awards—Pulitizer Prize, National Book Award-Fiction • Currently—lives in the Smoky Mountian region of Tennessee Richard Powers is an American novelist whose works explore the effects of modern science and technology. Their early years are rough because they cannot have children, though Dorothy desires a child intensely, and they have to find other ways to find meaning. Olivia is killed in their last action when their explosions do not go off properly, and she is left wondering what went wrong with her conviction that they would be successful. She moves to San Francisco, hoping to avoid the authorities. Douglas begins drifting, eventually settling down in an abandoned old forest town to act as a veritable tour guide. These were the forests that had been clear-cut to build San Francisco, and it seemed to me that they had grown back wonderfully. The themes are different of course—-Powers is not interested in discussing God or the basis of morality—but one does get the sense in reading the Overstory that the plot, characters and various literary devices are all at the service of the author’s philosophical vision. She is patient and loving in ways she never was in their youth, and together the two of them find meaning in each other and the natural world. A charismatic, thoughtful leader of the Life Defense Force, Mother N preaches nonviolence and helps the eco-warriors strategize and carry out their obstructionist actions. She is a good wife and mother but over time begins to slip into insanity and dementia. She helps him get to his planned topic of study—the behavior and motivations of tree-huggers. The Overstory Characters Richard Powers This Study Guide consists of approximately 87 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Overstory. The Overstory, which won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction on Monday, is as close as it gets to a founding text for Powers’s environmentalism.The novel follows nine characters… A Chinese student from a wealthy family who attains a visa to go to America to study engineering. As a young man, Adam had a somewhat tempestuous life: his father was abusive, his mother called him “slow,” his siblings were fickle with him, and he was treated poorly by classmates who were derisive towards his “differences.” He turned his attention to the natural world as a child (his father planted a tree for each sibling, and his was a beloved maple), and then became captivated by psychology as a high school student when he came across a book about humans’ cognitive biases. For his part, Ray is capable only of minor speech and expressions, but he is able to engage with Dorothy. Patricia loses her teaching position and becomes suicidal, but after changing her mind, she decides to live a solitary life as a park ranger. The Overstory is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of - and paean to - the natural world. Has The Overstory changed your perspective? They compete for … Ray researches the curious question of whether or not trees have standing. She turns this fascination into a life's work, but her early article on the communication between trees, while initially well-received, is eventually discredited. "The Overstory Characters". He dies at age 58 from what is apparently a heart attack. GradeSaver, 24 October 2019 Web. Powers’ (Orfeo, 2014, etc.) Jean looks out for Adam the most out of his siblings. After Mimas is cut down, he and Mimi, Adam, Olivia, and Nick carry out acts of eco-terrorism. resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel. 12th novel is a masterpiece of operatic proportions, involving nine central characters and more than half a century of American life.In this work, Powers takes on the subject of nature, or our relationship to nature, as filtered through the lens of environmental activism, although at its heart the book is after more existential concerns. Compared to the trees that had so impressed me, it was like Jupiter is to the Earth. THE OVERSTORY By Richard Powers 502 pp. He takes the nickname “Doug-fir” and engages in criminal acts of trespassing, vandalism, etc. He dies when she is a teenager. While he seems to love his children, he loses his temper easily and becomes violent. Not affiliated with Harvard College. . She is patient and loving in ways she never was in their youth, and together the two of them find meaning in each other and the natural world. He forms a company and becomes extremely rich, though he cares little for the money. His consciousness grows, and he becomes as committed to the fight to save the trees as she is. As The Overstory unfolds, the paths of several of its characters converge in events inspired by the so-called Redwood Summer of 1990. Surprisingly, Adam is not too distressed about his conviction and sentencing to seventy upon seventy years in jail, reasoning that it is shorter than the lifespan of a tree. They want an illusionist and a bringer of hope, she realizes, so she decides to give a stirring and honest speech and then commit suicide via drinking poisonous tree extracts in front of the gathering to make a statement—this is the only thing humans can really do for the planet. But one day, I came across a single tree that had, for whatever reason, escaped the loggers. Osborne-Bartucca, Kristen. The Overstory leaves you with a slightly adjusted frame of reference.… What was happening to his characters passed into my conscience, like alcohol into the bloodstream, and left a feeling behind of grief or guilt, even after I put it down. Patricia's father, an ag extension agent with a passion for science and nature. Huge chunks of the book don’t properly fit into that concentric ring structure. Neelay's beloved father who jumpstarts the boy's interest in computers and coding. He encourages her to write a book, which becomes The Secret Forest, a work of science but also of striking poetry and intimacy. Time passes and though Ray is content, Dorothy is restless and begins having an affair. She realizes he is trying to underpay her and manages to get him to give her the real value of the scroll. W.W. Norton & Company. "Listen. She becomes a renowned psychologist (under a pseudonym), pioneering a completely silent form of therapy. He is the one who begins the family legacy of taking pictures of the chestnut tree and how it changes over time. He has been coasting through life on insurance money, living at the Hoel family farm, and now that the money has run out, he realizes that he needs to find some kind of direction in his life. Osborne-Bartucca, Kristen. He is mesmerized by her, and begins to see his fate knitted with hers. He and Mother N die when the office is bombed. . He considers himself more pragmatic than them, especially when he refuses to get help for Olivia when she is dying because they would all be found out. He had a “religious conversion”—not in the theistic sense, he has explained, but one that left him breathless as to how he had never really noticed the trees around him before. For many of these characters, these epiphanies border on religious conversions (possibly not unlike the moment Powers’s himself describes as his inspiration for writing this novel ), and several of them eventually meet and commit themselves to a radical … The two of them start their dating life in an unconventional way—by going to amateur theater auditions for Macbeth and getting the parts. He wanders as a vagrant and continues to write his messages. Copyright © 1999 - 2020 GradeSaver LLC. This expands into wider activism in which Douglas, whom she meets by her favorite trees after they are destroyed, is always by her side.