They talk to the trees ... and the trees talk to each other

Lifestyle

They talk to the trees ... and the trees talk to each other

‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers is an enthralling account of how nature contributes to our wellbeing

Mila de Villiers

Thought that talking trees were strictly limited to Tolkien’s ents of Middle Earth? Think again. Richard Powers’s 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner The Overstory adds new meaning to arboreal sentience.

Combining the stories of nine strangers, each of whom attach significant meaning to trees (be it the speech-and-hearing impaired dendrologist, an artist of Norwegian descent who makes tree-related artwork, the air force loadmaster saved by a banyan tree, the daughter of Chinese immigrants who cherishes the mulberry bush in her garden, or the 1980s joller who dedicates her life to combating deforestation), Powers delivers a compelling account of how the natural world impacts Homo sapiens’ everyday life — and what its destruction will mean for the future of humanity.

If one were to pen a dramatis personae for The Overstory, trees — as a whole — would be regarded as a 10th character. Possessing the ability to communicate with one another, including alerting each other of potential threats and adapting to avoid them, Powers has created a novel which encourages — nay, compels — the reader to rethink our relationship with nature...

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