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Beans of Egypt Maine Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 1986


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 10 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (July 1, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446300101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446300100
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 0.6 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,735,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Carolyn Chute is the author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine; Letourneau’s Used Auto Parts; Snow Man; and Merry Men, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Thorton Wilder Fellowship. She currently lives in Maine with her husband. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From AudioFile

Some novels should be heard and not read, and Chute's classic about the tiny town of Egypt, Maine, and its mostly related residents, last name Bean, is definitely one of them. There is just no way to accurately write a backwoods Maine accent; you've got to hear it. When Joyce Bean and William Dufris speak in their characters' heavily Maine-inflected voices, Chute's characters are suddenly standing there right in front of you, even if you wish they weren't. As in William Faulkner's novel AS I LAY DYING, these characters provoke more disgust than sympathy, sinking lower and lower till they hardly seem human. The surprise is, they are human, and, partly due to beautifully understated readings, by the end of the book your heart is breaking for them. N.G. © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Customer Reviews

Rather a serious book you'll think about for a long time.
Amazon Customer
I first read this book years ago on recommendation of a friend.
Amazon Customer
The setting is puzzling, essential to the plot but unlikely.
Liz Dunbar

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is not a novel for those looking for a simple, pre-digested read with a typical setting-action-climax structure. This is a literary novel - rife with atmosphere, amazing imagery and allegory - and well worth the extra brain-cell workout it might take to discover all the nuances. Even without the analytical approach, you'll enjoy it as a fresh and unsettling picture of poor poor poor life in America - it's a window to another world.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dee on May 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Reading this novel will make you feel like the brave individuals who want to experience the more unfortunate part of our world...some such adventurous souls take on the garb and guise of a homeless person...actually going out to spend time, sleep on our planets big city streets and "really" find out how the other half lives...Or, barring the misfortune of having been born into and raised in the fictional but epidemically unfortunate true to life community of "Egypt" Maine, and/or not wanting to experience homelessness or extreme poverty and it's trappings yourself...it is possible to get a strong idea of what it's like to live how Ms. Chute describes by working in one of the social services...in particuarly, teaching...

This reviewer has taught in the area of New England ( New Hampshire and Maine ) that Ms. Chute describes...and while I have since been teaching in a nearby state, I can tell you that she is right on in her descriptions of many New England, or for that matter, ANY of the rural and too often depressed locales that cover our country.

Often, as was this reviewer's experience, such counties are indeed populated by three or four "Maine" family names that account for a disproportionate amount of the community and surrounding schools. These "families" or really, distended living groups, certainly with no semblage of a nuclear family, tend to always be at the head of the local police department's blotter and also tend to acquire the lion's share of their self admitted need for help and social services.

It is hard not to read Ms. Chute's work without coming to the "conclusions" that she hopes the fair minded reader will avoid.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By J. Beaulieu on August 7, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I wonder if I should be even thinking of reviewing this book, given that I have had the very good fortune of being friends with the author for over 20 years now -- we met before "Beans" was published.

However, I also feel that somebody out there should understand that this is a wonderful, honest, painful, loving, remarkable book. Carolyn writes about things she knows, and then gets very up close and personal about it.

This book is an attempt to show those who have never known [or even seen] the lives of people some would term "unfortunate" and others simply disdain, and to show that THESE PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE. Being poor does not mean that one cannot live with dignity, or honesty, or humor. Being poor does mean that these people are often forced to live in a society that demeans them, insults them, and often forces them into places where they are regarded as nothing but yesterday's garbage.

Let there be no mistake; The Beans are with us, and are not about to go away anytime soon, nor should they. If we have eyes to read and lips to read aloud the story of The Beans, we just might realize that they have much to teach us about truth, honor, respect, and love.

I understand that many people will not understand how on earth I can make this statement because I understand that many people prefer to look for the tawdry and speciousness in environments that they find uncomfortable or even unbelievable.

But this is above all a book of hope. It shows us that everyone lives a life of worth and influence, even if at times some of these "everyones" live lives that are in large part cruel and uncaring.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 16, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Many years ago, I had to read this book when I began working for our local Legal Aid Society. It's amazing to me how "The Book of Ruth" got so much publicity when this book did a much better job of detailing the desperate lives of people living in poverty.
I write reviews for a local newspaper and when "Ruth" came out, I reviewed it, mentioning this book. Several readers called to tell me they read this book instead of "Ruth" and to express their gratitude for my recommendation.
If you need to look into the eye of abject poverty, forget Oprah's suggestion. Read this book.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful By claire a przybyla on April 6, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This collection of inter-related short stories presents a dim picture of life in rural, backwoods America. Chute does a good job of highlighting a largely neglected aspect of poverty in the contemporary United States: the existence of a white underclass whose number may even surpass that of their urban black or Hispanic counterparts. The former are much less conspicuous, largely being rural, more spread out, and less easily identified by their physical characteristics. The groups all suffer from similar malaise, however: poverty, high rates of illegitimacy, violence, run-ins with the law, and alienation from larger society. The author also does a good job showing how the younger characters come to increasingly resemble their older counterparts. Thus, young Beal Bean tragically mimics the violence of his uncle Reuben and Earlene Pomerleau sadly comes to take the place of Reuben's wife Madeline.
All the stereotypes about hillbillies are presented in this novel: incest, mental retardation, bad teeth. One wonders if the cultural elites would lavish their accolades on a similar novel that featured criminal, foot-shuffling, watermelon-eating African-American characters. Still, stereotypes didn't get to be stereotypes if large numbers of real characters who fit the type weren't readily observable. There is a thin line between stereotypes and archetypes, between parodying the traits of a particular group and epitomizing them. It's just hard to decide on which side of this line Chute's novel falls.
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