The Bean Trees

by Barbara Kingsolver

I have finally read Kingsolver\’s first book. It\’s my third try- twice before- years apart- I attempted and just couldn\’t get into it. Must have been the mood. It\’s a good story with some heartwarming and heartwrenching themes, but not as finely written as her later novels so I doubt this one will ever be a favorite of mine. However I am glad I read it.

Its main character, Taylor Greer, is young when the novel begins, relieved that she managed to finish highschool without winding up pregnant like so many other girls, and her only plan is to escape rural Kentucky and see some of the world. She drives west in a barely-functional car and finds out pretty darn quick that people can be miserable and meanspirited anywhere you go. Seeming by chance- being in the wrong (or right) place at the wrong time she winds up with a young Cherokee child foisted on her, and not knowing what to do, keeps driving until finally she winds up in Arizona. Where she tentatively puts down roots, finds a roommate, patches together friendships and some turn out to be strong enough to call family in the end. She ends up working at a used tire shop owned by a woman, and becomes close to a Guatemalan couple looking for a safe haven. There\’s a lot in here about abuse, child neglect and mistreatment, drunkenness, poverty and misery, immigrants on the run, etc. But it\’s all about the goodness and strength of human nature in overcoming those things. In reaching out to others, giving helping hands, making sacrifices, lending time to heal. Not told in quite enough depth and detail for me, but moving nonetheless. Tackles a lot of difficult subjects and comes out hopeful. I liked more of it than I expected to.

The tone of it all reminded me somewhat of She\’s Come Undone, but the lovely metaphors with plants (at the end of the novel) very much a Kingsolver thing.

Rating: 3/5                323 pages, 1988

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3 Responses

  1. I've had this one on the shelves for years, but still haven't read it for one reason or another. It seems like once a book has been sitting around the house for much more than a year without being read, the odds of that happening are pretty slim. I need to make a conscious effort to read more of them – some have been shelved since the late eighties, in fact.

  2. Bermudaonion- I can see why this is such a popular book. It really has a lot going for it.Sam- I think the oldest-shelved book I read in my house, was eight years after I bought it? I certainly have some older that that sitting in my collection. I never give up hope on getting around to reading them all.PS: I forgot to mention about this book, how charming it was to me that the girl Turtle, loved plants and learned the names of vegetables before she would speak any other words.

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