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WAMC Book Picks - September 11th, 2018
Phil participated in Joe Donahue's Book Picks radio show on WAMC on 11th September. Here is a link to the show: Book Picks Below is a review of one of the books Joe and Phil talked about. You can find the rest of the reviews here: Book Picks
Richard Powers’ novels often examine the impact of science on the world. His latest book, The Overstory, is a breathtaking exploration of the evolution of life on earth, the co-dependency of life forms, and the threat we, as a species, pose to this intricate system. It is an impassioned cry for us all to pause, take stock, and think about the devastation we are wreaking on the ecosystem before it is too late. But this is no preaching from the pulpit tirade; it’s a beautifully written work drawing on the knowledge of the ages to paint a picture of hope and possibility – if only we would listen to the world around us: the trees have secrets they want to share.
The book is divided into four main parts: Roots, Trunk, Crown, and Seeds. In Roots, Powers introduces the main characters in eight short and very moving pieces. He clearly loves his characters, revealing them with great warmth and compassion.
In Trunk, five of these characters join the Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest, staging blockades and peaceful protests until they are met with violence. They decide to meet the violence with a campaign of arson against equipment and machinery. Tragedy strikes, leaving one of them dead, and the other four on the run.
Part 3, Crown, opens 20 years later. One of the arsonists is discovered, and reveals the identity of a second arsonist in a deal to reduce his sentence. The second arsonist refuses to expose his friends, and is sentenced to two consecutive life terms for domestic terrorism.
Powers begins the final section, Seeds, by imagining the life of our 4.5 billion-year-old planet condensed into a single day starting at midnight. On this time scale, modern humans appear just four seconds before the end of the day, and the first cave paintings are created with just a second left until midnight. Yet we have come to dominate the planet.
This is a beautiful novel, told with love and respect, but also with a sense of urgency. It’s time to listen to the trees.
Richard Powers won the 2006 National Book Award for his novel, The Echo Maker.
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