Three is… a crowd? Company? The magic number? Hell, it’s a lot of things and I’m going to add one more to the three ingredient pot: book recommendations. The NY Times can have their 100 and Buzzfeed can stick to 22 – my brain isn’t big enough to handle much more than three of anything at a time. For a time I tried to make booklists that had about six titles, but then my attention began to… what’s that word?
Within the last three months (insert wink emoji for the similarly attention deficit reader), I finished a trio of great big novels that mashed together trees and family sagas/dramas. And you know what? That’s a pretty good recipe. To wit:
The Overstory by Richard Powers. Each story line begins with a different tree as they develop and barrel toward each other and a denouement that proves both bloody and redemptive. Beautiful writing, real characters, and a powerful statement about the natural world illustrate just why Powers won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Trees will save us all.
Deep River by Karl Marlantes. With roots that begin in Finland, only to migrate to the Pacific Northwest, Marlantes tells the tale of a logging community just across the Columbia from Astoria. This is a complex saga of immigration, war, women’s rights, the birth of the logging unions, and the redemptive qualities of the people who settled in the region at the turn of the 19th century. Read it and weep.
Greenwood by Michael Christie. A few decades hence, blight has killed most of the world’s trees. On an island just off the coast of British Columbia, a young biologist begins a journey that travels back 100 years and then forward again as it traces the Greenwood family through war, poverty, deceit, and atonement. The story moves relentlessly through time and across the continent from east to west, exploring the growth of a continent, an industry, and a dysfunctional family. And throughout, the trees that drove them all.
So there you have it. None of them quite Sometimes a Great Notion, but then what ever will be? May I be excused? My brain is full.
Colin Rea is Director of the Fern Ridge Library District in Veneta, Oregon. A former bookseller and Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association board member, he may be the only Oregonian to actively dislike the Grateful Dead. His favorite foods are scotch and sandwiches.