The Over­story

Poets and Writers - - Q & A - From The Over­story by Richard Pow­ers. Copy­right © 2018 by Richard Pow­ers. Used with per­mis­sion of the pub­lisher, W. W. Nor­ton & Com­pany, Inc. All rights re­served.

It’s 1950, and like the boy Cy­paris­sus, whom she’ll soon dis­cover, lit­tle Patty Wester­ford falls in love with her pet deer. Hers is made of twigs, though it’s ev­ery bit alive. Also: squir­rels from pairs of glued wal­nut shells, bears made of sweet­gum balls, drag­ons from the pods of Ken­tucky cof­fee trees, fairies don­ning ac­cord caps, and an an­gel whose pine-cone body needs only two holly leaves for wings.

She builds these crea­tures elab­o­rate homes with peb­bled front walks and mush­room fur­ni­ture. She sleeps in beds fit­ted with mag­no­lia-pe­tal com­forters. She watches over them, the guid­ing spirit of a king­dom whose towns nes­tle be­hind closed doors in the burls of trees. Knot­holes turn into lou­vered win­dows, through which, squint­ing, she can see the invit­ing par­lors of woody cit­i­zens, the lost kin of hu­mans. She lives there with her crea­tures in the minis­cule ar­chi­tec­ture of imag­i­na­tion, so much richer than the of­fer­ings of full-sized life. When her tiny wooden doll’s head twists off, she plants it in the gar­den, cer­tain it will grow an­other body.

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