The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

If I don’t write about a book as soon as I’ve finished it the details begin to fade. I finished reading  Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel, The Bean Trees a few weeks ago. So this is a short post on the book, which doesn’t really do justice to it!

My thoughts:

I loved this book. Barbara Kingsolver writes in such a way that I can easily visualise the scenes, beginning with the opening paragraph in which she describes a tractor tire blowing up, flinging a man up in the air and throwing him over the top of a Standard Oil sign. Taylor (originally called Marietta/Missy) grew up in rural Kentucky. She left home when she had saved enough to buy a car, an old VW. She changed her name to Taylor after the first place where she ran out of petrol, which just happened to be Taylorville. She drove on until the car broke down in the middle of nowhere, on land owned by the Cherokee tribe. And it was there at a garage that an Indian woman abandoned a baby girl in Taylor’s car – she called the baby, Turtle.

They travel on to Tucson, where she settled for a while, living with Lou Ann, a mother whose husband, Angel Ruiz left before their son was born, and working for Mattie at ‘Jesus Is Lord Used Tires’. Mattie, however, is also involved in an underground railway moving illegal Guatemalan and Salvadoran immigrants to safe houses. She talks of the obligation under the United Nations ‘something or other’ ‘to take in people whose lives are in danger’. And Taylor becomes involved in helping her.

There are several themes running throughout this short, but well written book – both political and social including family relationships, particularly mother/child, sexual and physical abuse of small children, the integration of cultures, as well as the always current issue of refugees and illegal immigrants. I thought it was all thought-provoking as well as fascinating reading.

I have read some of Barbara Kingsolver’s later books, including The Poisonwood Bible, a longer and much more complex book, which I’ve read twice and loved. There is a sequel to The Bean Trees that I really want to read now – Pigs In Heaven.

Reading Challenges: What’s In a Name? in the category of a book with the word ‘tree’ in the title.

11 thoughts on “The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

  1. I highly recommend her book Animal Dreams as well. I think it was written after Bean Trees but before Pigs in Heaven. It’s one of my favorite books.


  2. I keep meaning to read something else by Barbara Kingsolver… I thought The Poisonwood Bible was excellent… but I never seem to get around to it. I really must,


  3. I’ve had this book in an omnibus (along with Pigs in Heaven) on my shelf for 3 decades and haven’t gotten around to reading it, despite LOVING The Poisonwood Bible. Knowing that you really liked is strong impetus for me to get to it!


  4. It sounds as though this is one of those books that uses people’s lives and their interactions to tell a larger story, Margaret, and that can be really successful. I’m glad you enjoyed these characters.


  5. Hi-
    I dropped by your blog to read your Ethan Frome review and since I couldn’t make a comment on it, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. I have added it to my TBR pile. Now that I’ve read The Age of Innocence I will certainly look for this one. Bonus, it is short, which is an issue with time these days.


  6. Oh, now I look at this review. I love KINGSOLVER and Bean Trees was a favorite for a while until I read some of her later stuff. We read LACUNA for book club. It is a tome of a book, yet everyone read it and we all learned so much! She is a treasure. POISONWOOD BIBLE and FLIGHT BEHAVIOR are also excellent.


  7. I read this book yonks ago – novella really isn’t it? (Or maybe I’m confused, but I read it in a compilation from memory!) And I enjoyed it.

    I love a lot of Kingsolver’s work and once read everything that came out!


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