The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

November 2, 2012 Contemporary Fiction, Family, Psychological 28

Hi Bookworms! Today we’re going to talk about The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver.

Barbara Kingsolver also wrote The Poisonwood Bible which is amazing and I totally suggest you read it if you have any interest… But if it’s too long or too missionary-ish for you, I won’t blame you if you can’t finish it. I’m not an elitist book snob or anything, read what you like. (Okay, maybe I’m a little bit of an elitist book snob, but only a little.)

All of that is beside the point, other than the fact that Barbara Kingsolver wrote The Bean Trees. A high school friend of mine (I used to call her “Pants Pie” and she still talks to me) who is kind enough to read my blog (Hi Megan!) told me that I needed to read this, so I did. I take suggestions seriously, I swear.

This book was a lot different than I expected. I mean. I don’t know what I expected… But a girl from Appalachia who takes great pains not to end up pregnant like a large portion of her graduating class who leaves town only to be saddled with a Cherokee toddler to raise REALLY wasn’t what I expected.

The girl from Kentucky and the foundling from Oklahoma find their home in Tuscon, Arizona.

Did you get all that? Our heroine Taylor (whose real name is Marietta) decides to get the heck out of Kentucky. She’s got a POS car that’s held together with duct tape and chewing gum and she breaks down on tribal lands in Oklahoma. Oh you’re not familiar with US History? So, what happened was, the US government was unbelievably horrible to the Native Americans. European settlers showed up and were all mean and stuff, and eventually pushed the Native Americans out of their homes and shipped them all off on the Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears was this brutal march to the middle of nowhere (AKA Oklahoma) and there the Cherokee nation resides to this day. Actually, it was several tribes subjected to relocation, but this book focused on the Cherokee, and so shall we.

So while Taylor is stranded in Oklahoma, some crazed woman deposits a sexually assaulted toddler in the backseat of her car. Taylor has no idea what to do. In the end, she decides the kid is better off with her than where she came from (OBVIOUSLY) so she takes the little one with her on her journey to Arizona.

What follows is a beautiful story of family. It’s not always about the family you’re born into, but the family you make for yourself. When Taylor finds herself in Tuscon, she’s utterly alone. A series of fortunate coincidences help Taylor create a new life and a new family for herself and her daughter. Sure, her psychologically damaged foster child speaks exclusively of produce- but that’s okay. Taylor holds out hope that “tomato” and “bean” eventually turn into “mom” and “love.” The random roommate she found in the classified section turns out to be her best friend. Taylor’s boss at the tire shop is a mechanic by day and immigration activist by night. She becomes more than just Taylor’s boss- she becomes her inspiration. Life throws Taylor and her “family” a jacked up set of curve balls and they muddle through it the best they can, and their life? It’s beautiful.

Family comes in all shapes and sizes. Do any of you bookworms have a non-biological family you’ve built?

28 Responses to “The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver”

  1. ashley

    Ive heard this book was good. Another one to add to the list. Katie, I would be in a literary black hole without you!

    • Words for Worms

      Oh Ashley, I HARDLY think you’d be in a literary black hole… But I will accept your compliment because I am vain and I like it when people tell me nice things. Thank you, dear! 🙂

  2. Leah

    This does sound good! Also, The Poisonwood Bible has been sitting on my shelf for about six months, and I keep thinking, “This looks really good, I should read it,” but then I always end up choosing something different. I should probably read it soon because I have heard nothing but good things about it.

    As to non-biological family, my college friends and I definitely formed our own little family; we had lots of weird fun, were there for each other, and drove each other crazy sometimes. I miss it!

    • Words for Worms

      I still miss my college girls immensely. It stinks when everyone scatters after school, but they were my family away from family in every way that mattered. The Poisonwood Bible is a time investment, but totally worth it. I think you’d really like it! 🙂

  3. didibooksenglish

    Sounds like a great book. I’ve only read The Poisonwood Bible by her, but I jus might be interested in picking this one up. I haven’t heard so much about it. Thanks for the review!

      • didibooksenglish

        I certainly will. My reading is slowing a little bit this month because of NaNoWriMo. I’m reading a YA book called Velveteen. It’s pretty good. I had to press for my dictionary twice on my Kindle. he has uped the fancey language for the teens. I’m finding it refreshing.

  4. Lyssapants

    One of my best friends is my porn buddy (which doesn’t mean that she does porn with me. It means that if either of us dies, the living one runs into our home and destroys all our porn before important people find it and posthumously judges us for being secure in our sexuality).
    That’s thicker than blood.

  5. mrscrazypants

    Literally just read your review, went to the library online, downloaded and am about to start reading!!!!! Sounds like a really interesting story!

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