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"The Overstory," Helps Readers See The Forest And The Trees

"The Overstory" by Richard Powers weaves a beautiful and tragic story between its human characters and the trees that are often overshadowed by the concerns of daily life, but no less connected to human existence.

“The Overstory,” by Richard Powers, was published in 2018 and won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

The novel is complicated. It follows nine very different characters, whose lives become intertwined and connected as each one of them becomes aware of how their fellow humans are destroying old growth forests.

Although the human plotlines drive the action, the book is, most importantly, about trees. Through the stories of the human characters, readers vicariously experience their spiritual awakenings, growing awareness and connections to trees. Through one of his characters, a botanist named Patricia Westerford, Powers also introduces readers to a great deal of scientific information.

It's the March meeting of the Talk of Iowa Book Club. Host Charity Nebbe explores “The Overstory” with expert readers Debra Marquart, Jim Pease and Eric Tate.

Interested in joining the next meeting of the Talk of Iowa Book Club? Our April selection is "An American Sunrise” by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. Join the discussion on April 20th.

In the meantime, chat about book club selections and other literary interests with Charity and hundreds of other readers from across the state in the Talk of Iowa Book Club Facebook Group.


  • Debra Marquart, Iowa Poet Laureate, professor of English at Iowa State University, poet, author and musician
  • Jim Pease, emeritus associate professor, Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State University
  • Eric Tate, associate professor of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences at the University of Iowa
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Matthew was a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Katherine Perkins is IPR's Program Director for News and Talk