A few weeks ago I read my second Barbara Kingsolver book, The Bean Trees. (I read The Poisonwood Bible maybe five years ago.) From Goodreads:
Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away. But when she heads west with high hopes and a barely functional car, she meets the human condition head-on. By the time Taylor arrives in Tucson, Arizona, she has acquired a completely unexpected child, a 3-year-old American Indian girl named Turtle, and must somehow come to terms with both motherhood and the necessity for putting down roots. Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places.
This was a really cute book. It reminded me of Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts in tone and shades of The Round House by Louise Erdrich. Taylor is sassy and smart, but some of her talking points were a bit heavy handed, like, I couldn’t tell if this is a book with a specific message Kingsolver was trying to get across or not. The other characters, while entertaining, were kind of just caricatures—I didn’t feel like they were multifaceted, whole people. I’m not sure I perceived a real connection between Taylor and Turtle, and I would have liked to see the end turn out differently than it did.
All that said, The Bean Trees is a cute book. It’s pretty short, with a real down-home Southwestern vibe to it. Kingsolver’s writing style was raw here (it’s her first book, after all) but there is a lot of lyricism that you can see will develop. It was interesting how although there are serious themes such as domestic violence, single parenthood, immigration here, it is still ultimately an uplifting, “light” read. There is a sequel, Pigs in Heaven, but I’m not so compelled to continue. The Bean Trees works well as a stand-alone.
The Bean Trees is my fourth of twelve books read for the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge.
Read from June 23 to July 7, 2014.