march read: the overstory

this book, my first fiction of the year, started out as february's book of the month. as i mentioned in last month's post, though, it was pushed to march because i was in the middle of some books that i was trying to finish before my move. we can add this one to that same list, however, because i'm still not done with it.

i'm the kind of person that needs to finish what she starts. or, i guess, i used to be. tv series, books, movies, even hobbies and relationships, i felt like i needed to see through to the end. as i teach myself that closure is an illusion and actually not necessary in life, however, i've learn to stop when i feel like something isn't serving me anymore. i have to add this book to that list.

looking at the table of contents page, you'd notice that the book is separated into sections named after parts of a tree. the first section, roots, has several subsections underneath it named after the characters of the book. i got through roots fairly easily, where the author, richard powers, paints the backstory of each character. i felt like each had their own climax and their individual sections almost read as anecdotes, which had a very similar, albeit repetitive rhythm. a slow build, a very interesting climax (that did have me anxiously reading to see what would happen next - i have to give credit for this!), and an abrupt end. over and over eight times (there are nine characters, but two are a couple, so their section is combined into one). still, i kept on reading to see where this story was going.

once i got to trunk, the second and longest section (exactly 200 pages), each of the characters' stories intertwines. the problem with this, for me, was that there was more attention paid to some characters than others. take for example the third character from the book, adam appich. there's a more than 200 page gap between his introduction and when he's mentioned again in the trunk section. i had completely forgotten about him after his section in roots, that by the time he was mentioned again in trunk, i had to re-read his introduction before continuing. annoying, but maybe he was the only one left out...

but wait a minute, upon looking at the table of contents to see who adam appich was and what page his section in roots started on, i realized the first character, nicholas hoel, had actually met the last character, olivia vandergriff, early on in the trunk section. i thought she had just met a stranger! now i was simply confused and felt i needed to re-read the entire trunk section over again just to understand the artistic irony that had completely sailed over my head. mind you, i was exactly in the middle of the trunk section, and almost exactly in the middle of the book. Grr.

i came to the conclusion that the organization of the book was just dizzying. rather than try to re-read sections about characters and then re-read what i had just read from the second chapter within the last week of the month, i decided to relieve myself of the book, and come back to it in the future, where I'd like to re-read it in it's entirety.

i get that the author made an artistic choice separating the book into sections like the sections of a tree, but during the trunk section, most of the attention is paid to only five of the nine characters, which was downright confusing to follow once the other four were reintroduced. perhaps if the book were shorter it would have been easier to follow, but i read this book almost every day over the course of an in-consecutive month (two weeks in february and almost three weeks in march), and still only got halfway through. perhaps it was also a big leap to go from the four agreements (160 pages) and the book of the courtesans (288 pages) to the overstory (500+ pages).

i am looking at this book as a learning opportunity for my literary journey, despite the challenges i faced. it's interesting to see what exactly is possible for me to read in a month's span, which does set me up for success going forward! it took me a month to get 251 pages into the overstory, i finished the last 60 pages of the book of the courtesans in a day, and i finished the four agreements in two weeks. that tells me that going forward, reading a book that's 250-300 pages long in one month is a good goal to set. but, maybe i just struggle with fictions more than non-fictions and I could aim higher if it was a non-fiction. *shrugs*

i found some challenges reading a fiction book that I hadn't come across with the prior non-fiction works. i found myself glazing over at dialogue in the overstory and, of course, struggling to keep track of which characters were who (i also have this issue in downton abbey, which i'm watching currently. whenever they talk about people from parties or in their family who are not immediately main characters, i find myself confused who they're talking about). i also know that when i read fiction books, i spend more time imagining what the characters would actually look like, which makes the reading process much longer ( i am remembering that i found myself dissecting almost every sentence in the beginning of the four agreements, which took a considerable amount of time, too! i guess you could say i definitely try to be invested in the books I read! [it's nice to notice these patterns about myself throughout this journey!]).

as i mentioned at the beginning of this post (and also the beginning of the book of the courtesans' post), i got to pick up my book collection from berlin in mid-february. i brought a few back to the states with me, making a note of the ones i left behind (i did the same thing when i left miami to move to berlin), which i'll rebuy when i get settled again. most are safe in storage, but one that i decided to bring with me was our fatal magic by tai shani. i've only read the first story, which is quite short, so i'm making it april's book of the month! i hope you continue to follow along with my literary journey!


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