Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Book Review:: The Bean Trees

This was the third book I read by Barbara Kingsolver. I always get a little scared when I begin one of her books because I'm just sure that she is far too brainy for me and I won't get it. (Why do I keep underestimating myself?) Then I read it, inevitably like it and want to write about it here. Then the fear comes back and I get a knot in my stomach, certain that whatever I have to say about the book won't do it justice. Kingsolver crams so much into each one of her books that I know I'm missing something.

Anyway, the main character is a young woman named Taylor Greer. She, unlike most of the girls she knows, manages to avoid getting pregnant in high school. She saves up some money from her job at a hospital and now wants to get out of her podunk town in rural Kentucky, hopefully to some place with a bit more to offer. She kisses her mama goodbye, packs up her shittastic car, and decides to head west until her car stops running. Along the way she stops at a diner to eat. On her way out she's given a small child who would have otherwise been in grave danger.

Taylor, now with a child, gets back in her car and drives on, finally ending in Tucson, Arizona. Here she meets Lou Ann Ruiz, a gal whose husband just left her and their newborn baby. The young women become friends and move in together, forming an interesting sort of family, wherein they work and take care of one another and the children. Taylor gets a job working for Mattie, the owner of the Jesus is Lord tire shop. Mattie leads a bit of a double life, also running a safe house for illegal immigrants, one of whom Taylor falls painfully in love with.

Even though this book deals with so many serious issues like child abuse, adoption, and immigration, it's mostly a light hearted book that left me totally inspired and in a good mood. The friendships that were made over the course of the story remained strong although the characters had to deal with some rough times.

I just found out there is a sequel to this book titled Pigs in Heaven, which I totally want to read even though it isn't on the list. But until then, Kingsolver has two more books I need to read that are on the list (Prodigal Summer and Animal Dreams), so I need to hurry up and shake my fear of her.

19 comments:

Daphne said...

I've always shied away from this book because (shame on me) I thought it was some horrible depressing South American tale of scratching in the dirt. Um, apparently I was very wrong. Going to put it on the TBR list now!

(and you are silly to underestimate yourself, you smartie)

Visty said...

This is my favorite book of all time. I have read it over and over. The theme of accepting life for what it is and seeing the good---that keeps me going.

Tammie said...

daphne: i know what you mean, i initially judged it by the title and the cover and wasnt real enthused. im so glad i was wrong.

this is one of the reason i wanted to read the books on the NPR list, im forced to try out books i would otherwise ignore.

visty: i know right?!? so true. im always so quick to focus on the shitty hand i was dealt in life, but really there are a lot of folks who were dealt just as shitty hands and they've managed to turn it into something good. i guess sometimes it really is just all in your perspective.

Agnes Brown said...

I really liked The Bean Trees but found Pigs in Heaven a bit of a downer as a second book to the story. If you liked where the story ended and how it ended, then I recommend not reading Pigs in Heaven. Just my two cents.

Tammie said...

agnes: its so funny you mention that! this morning i was reading the synopsis of the book on Amazon and i felt much the same way. im totally happy where the story ended and Pigs in Heaven does seem to be kind of a downer.

ill still probably read it if/when i stumble upon it, but i dont think ill hunt it down.

~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

Sounds like a good read....I've seen Kingsolver in our library, but never picked up any of her books. You are making me broaden my horizons -- and that's a good thing. I've been stuck in a rut for a long time.

Barefoot_Mommy said...

i loved this book.I'm so glad you liked it too.

Dani said...

Be gone Kingsolver fears!

Love the new banner...my kids just rated your blog space number one. For what that's worth.

Dani said...

I'm also going to put together a reading list this weekend. Although there are soooo many good ones out there that it kind of overwhelms me. But do it I will...to keep the focus and all. Plus you know my fondness for lists.

Tammie said...

jolly: i know how that goes. its easy to get in a rut.

barefoot: i loved it too. i found it so uplifting.

dani: ha! yeah, the header is pretty popular around here too.

Lia said...

I am loving this book, too. Not finished, yet. But I'm very glad that I saw you were reading this. I've had it for years, but I needed a nudge.

I think I've been intimidated by Kingsolver, too, but more because I decided I couldn't read Poisonwood and that decision sort of plagued everything else she's written, too. If I find a book I love, I tend to think I'll love all of that author's books, but apparently, that assumption goes both ways.

Lia said...

And no. I'm not on Facebook. But I recently thought about it. Once or twice.

heather said...

well, i think your review was superb tammie! but i always think you are a smarty pants. i'd be curious to read your thoughts on prodigal summer once you read it. i couldn't get into it... i tried many approaches too. i was sort of disappointed in myself, like "what is wrong with me that i'm not feeling the kinsolver love!?"

Hotch Potchery said...

This book sounds very interesting and think I will give it a read. Right now I am reading "The Dome" the new Stephen King book. loving. it.

I like your new header.

heather said...

kingsolver... ;)

Tammie said...

dani: i know. there are so many books i want to read. i have lists all over the place and every scrap of paper on my desk has a book title on it.

lia: im glad you gave barbara another try. have you thought about reading Animal Vegetable Miracle? its really good.

heather: interesting. ill definitely be writing about it when i read it. its actually one i want to read because ive heard so many different things about it. i just cant find it at my library.

hotch: thank you :)

Penny said...

(I love your new header)

I'm going to have to try that book. I finished my other book and I need to restart The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, but I just can't get into it. I know it is supposed to be really good, but the first several pages have been boring and usually if a book doesn't grab me from the beginning I quit.

Mari said...

I haven't read this one yet, sounds good!

hester said...

I didn't know "Pigs in Heaven" had a prequel! I'll have to read it as I really enjoyed "Pigs in Heaven". I like the "realness" of Kingsolver's characters so must read a few more of them.

And WE know you are smart enough to read anything, Tammie! (And review it. I'm sure there is a literature professor inside you wanting to get out)