Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

What a sweet story. Weren't we just talking about underrated books recently? Barbara Kingsolver never ceases to amaze me with her writing, characters and storytelling. What a delight this book is. I have the sequel, Pigs in Heaven, waiting for me on my TBR shelf but I am reluctant to pick it up so soon after finishing The Bean Trees for fear of jinxing my reading buzz. I think I'll savor this one for a while.

Meet Taylor Greer. Clear-eyed and spirited, she grew up poor in rural Kentucky with two goals: to avoid pregnancy and to get away. She succeeds on both counts when she buys a '55 Volkswagen and heads west. But by the time our plucky if unlikely heroine pulls up on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona, at an auto repair shop called Jesus is Lord Used Tires that also happens to be a sanctuary for Central American refugees, she's 'inherited' a three-year-old American Indian girl named Turtle. What follows - as Taylor meets the human condition head-on - is at the heart of this memorable novel about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surpassing resources in apparently empty places. (back cover)

"You got anything to eat that costs less than a dollar?" I asked the old guy behind the counter. He crossed his arms and looked at me for a minute, as if nobody had ever asked him this before. "Ketchup," the gray-hat cowboy said. "Earl serves up a mean bottle of ketchup, don't you Earl?" He slid the ketchup bottle down the counter so hard it rammed my cup and spilled out probably five cents' worth of coffee. pg16

Her body, her face, and her eyes were all round. She was someone you could have drawn a picture of by tracing around dimes and quarters and jar tops. She opened up the blanket and took out something alive. It was a child. She wrapped her blanket around and around it until it became a round bundle with a head. Then she set this bundle down on the seat of my car. pg17

It's hard to explain how this felt. I went to high school in the seventies, but you have to understand that in Pittman County it may as well have been the fifties. Pittman was twenty years behind the nation in practically every way you can think of, except the rate of teenage pregnancies. For instance, we were the last place in the country to get the dial system. Up until 1973 you just picked up the receiver and said, Marge, get me my uncle Roscoe, or whoever. The telephone office was on the third floor of the Courthouse, and the operator could see everything around Main Street square including the bank, the drugstore, and Dr. Finchler's office. She would tell you if his car was there or not. pg47

There may have been a world of things I didn't understand, but I knew when rudeness passed between one human being and another. pg117

There was a cactus with bushy arms and a yellow coat of spines as thick as fir. A bird had built her nest in it. In and out she flew among the horrible spiny branches, never once hesitating. You just couldn't imagine how she'd made a home in there. pg130

Lou Ann shuddered. "That door's what gets me. The way they made the door handle. Like a woman is just something you shove on and walk right through. I try to ignore it, but it still gets me." "Don't ignore it, then," I said. "Talk back to it. Say, 'You can't do that number on me, you shit-for-brains.' . . . What I'm saying is you can't just sit there, you got to get pissed off.'" pg150

"You can't promise a kid that. All you can promise is that you'll take care of them the best you can, Lord willing and the creeks don't rise, and you just hope for the best. And things work out, Taylor, they do. We all muddle through some way." pg168

I didn't sleep at all that night. I was getting used to it. I watched Turtle roll from her side to her stomach and back again. Her eyes rolled back and forth under her eyelids, and sometimes her mouth worked too. Whoever she was talking to in her dream, she told them a whole lot more that she'd ever told me. I would have paid good money to be in that dream. pg182

If I didn't let my mind run too far ahead, I felt completely happy. pg209

It's also interesting how it's hard to be depressed around a three-year-old, if you're paying attention. After a while, whatever you're mooning about begins to seem like some elaborate adult invention. pg209


Willa said...

I was looking at this the other day and now I have to get it!! Thanks for reviewing it, it sounds like such a good book.

Tracy said...

I discovered Barbara Kingsolver this year and I'm keen to read more - this one is going on my wish list!

Trish said...

I hope you enjoy this just as much as I did! Barbara Kingsolver is new-ish to me too so I've been busy collecting and reading her older books before I get to her most recent one The Lacuna.

Sam said...

I love Barbara Kingsolver! I've read (and lovec) The Poisonwood Bible and The Lacuna, sounds like I need to check this one out as well :)

Tracy said...

Trish, I love The Lacuna!

Trish said...

Great! I'm excited to keep reading her.

oreneta said...

I would wait and savour till you can't wait, cause you're going to LOVE the next one too.....different, but also very good.

Trish said...

Cool! That's just what I'll do.

Leslie said...

I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle last year and just loved Kingsolver's writing style. I've been buying some of her older books when I see them at library sales but I didn't find this one... it sounds good.

Anonymous said...

Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors, I have read all but one for her books, I enjoyed also very much her latest The Lacuna, but at the time I was not blogging too seriously, so I don't have any review posted!
Just a piece of news I got in my RSS Reader just above your post!. Her next book is announced for the Fall 2012!!. Here is more info on it:
Emma @ Words And Peace

Trish said...

leslie - aren't library sales great? I found this one at my local used-book store along with the sequel. I'm also on the lookout for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

emma - wow that is great news! Thanks for the link. I'm heading over there right now.