Also on the shortlist, coming from Vintage in paperback next year...
By Richard Powers
Richard Powers is the author of twelve novels, including Orfeo (which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), The Echo Maker, The Time of Our Singing, Galatea 2.2, Plowing the Dark, and The Overstory. He is the recipient of a MacArthur grant and the National Book Award, and has been a Pulitzer Prize and four-time NBCC finalist. He lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond: An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. These four, and five other strangers – each summoned in different ways by trees – are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest. There is a world alongside ours – vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.
Powers’ ability to write with intricate beauty, insight and intelligence about people, nature and science, and to keep such a harmonious balance between all of these elements, is extraordinary. At the heart of The Overstory are nine characters, each so rounded and real that it is difficult not to become devastatingly invested in them. Powers allows you to watch their whole lives unfold, as they come together and move apart, never detracting from or shying away from a strong and emotional message about conservation, the natural world, and what neglecting that means and says about us as human beings. The Overstory is masterpiece.