88 pages 2 hours read

Richard Powers

The Overstory

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2018

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Reading, Discussion & Quiz Questions

Chapters 1-5


1. What sort of seeds do the Hoels bring with them to Iowa?

2. How does Nick Hoel’s family die?

3. Why does Sih Hsuin (“Winston”) Ma leave China for the U.S.?

4. What heirlooms from China does Winston Ma leave his daughters?

5. What book inspires Adam Appich to study psychology in college?

6. How do Ray Brinkman and Dorothy Cazaly meet?

7. What kind of law does Ray practice?


1. How does the novel’s short prologue relate to the work’s title?

A) It contextualizes human history within the full history of life on Earth.

B) It takes the reader on a tour of the component parts of a forest, from roots to canopy.

C) It provides an overview of the various ways the story’s narrative threads will intersect.

D) It suggests that there are multiple layers to stories, many of which humans aren’t aware.

2. How do the Hoels commemorate the chestnut tree they planted on their farm?

A) They collect chestnut shells.

B) They use its wood to build a table.

C) They photograph it every month.

D) They commission a portrait of it.

3. What does Winston Ma do when faced with a bear at Yellowstone?

A) He speaks to it in Chinese.

B) He weeps and screams.

C) He climbs a tree.

D) He throws a rock at it.