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The Bean Trees: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – September 9, 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 1,224 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Feisty Marietta Greer changes her name to "Taylor" when her car runs out of gas in Taylorville, Ill. By the time she reaches Oklahoma, this strong-willed young Kentucky native with a quick tongue and an open mind is catapulted into a surprising new life. Taylor leaves home in a beat-up '55 Volkswagen bug, on her way to nowhere in particular, savoring her freedom. But when a forlorn Cherokee woman drops a baby in Taylor's passenger seat and asks her to take it, she does. A first novel, The Bean Trees is an overwhelming delight, as random and unexpected as real life. The unmistakable voice of its irresistible heroine is whimsical, yet deeply insightful. Taylor playfully names her little foundling "Turtle," because she clings with an unrelenting, reptilian grip; at the same time, Taylor aches at the thought of the silent, staring child's past suffering. With Turtle in tow, Taylor lands in Tucson, Ariz., with two flat tires and decides to stay. The desert climate, landscape and vegetation are completely foreign to Taylor, and in learning to love Arizona, she also comes face to face with its rattlesnakes and tarantulas. Similarly, Taylor finds that motherhood, responsibility and independence are thorny, if welcome, gifts. This funny, inspiring book is a marvelous affirmation of risk-taking, commitment and everyday miracles.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This debut novel follows the gritty, outspoken Taylor Greer, who leaves her native Kentucky to head west. She becomes mother to an abandoned baby and, when her jalopy dies in Tucson, is forced to work in a tire garage and to room with a young, battered divorcee who also has a little girl. With sisterly counsel and personal honesty, the two face their painful lot (told in ponderous detail). The blue-collar setting, described vibrantly, often turns violent, with baby beatings, street brawls, and drug busts. Despite the hurt and rage, themes of love and nurturing emerge. A refreshingly upbeat, presentable first effort by an author whose subsequent novels will probably generate more interest than this one. Edward C. Lynskey, Documentation, Atlantic Research Corp., Alexandria, Va.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTorch; Reissue edition (September 9, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061097314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061097317
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,224 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barbara Kingsolver was born in 1955 in Annapolis, Maryland, and grew up in rural Kentucky. She counts among her most important early influences: the Bookmobile, a large family vegetable garden, the surrounding fields and woods, and parents who were tolerant of nature study but intolerant of TV.
Beginning around the age of nine, Barbara kept a journal, wrote poems and stories, and entered every essay contest she ever heard about. Her first published work, "Why We Need a New Elementary School," included an account of how the school's ceiling fell and injured her teacher. The essay was printed in the local newspaper prior to a school-bond election; the school bond passed. For her efforts Barbara won a $25 savings bond, on which she expected to live comfortably in adulthood.
After high school graduation she left Kentucky to enter DePauw University on a piano scholarship. She transferred from the music school to the college of liberal arts because of her desire to study practically everything, and graduated with a degree in biology. She spent the late 1970's in Greece, France and England seeking her fortune, but had not found it by the time her work visa expired in 1979. She then moved to Tucson, Arizona, out of curiosity to see the American southwest, and eventually pursued graduate studies in evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. After graduate school she worked as a scientific writer for the University of Arizona before becoming a freelance journalist.
Kingsolver's short fiction and poetry began to be published during the mid-1980's, along with the articles she wrote regularly for regional and national periodicals. She wrote her first novel, The Bean Trees, entirely at night, in the abundant free time made available by chronic insomnia during pregnancy. Completed just before the birth of her first child, in March 1987, the novel was published by HarperCollins the following year with a modest first printing. Widespread critical acclaim and word-of-mouth support have kept the book continuously in print since then. The Bean Trees has now been adopted into the core curriculum of high school and college literature classes across the U.S., and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.
She has written eleven more books since then, including the novels Animal Dreams , Pigs in Heaven, The Poisonwood Bible, and Prodigal Summer ; a collection of short stories (Homeland ); poetry (Another America ); an oral history (Holding the Line ); two essay collections (High Tide in Tucson, Small Wonder ); a prose-poetry text accompanying the photography of Annie Griffiths Belt (Last Stand ); and most recently, her first full-length narrative non-fiction, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She has contributed to dozens of literary anthologies, and her reviews and articles have appeared in most major U.S. newspapers and magazines. Her books have earned major literary awards at home and abroad, and in 2000 she received the National Humanities Medal, our nation's highest honor for service through the arts.
In 1997 Barbara established the Bellwether Prize, awarded in even-numbered years to a first novel that exemplifies outstanding literary quality and a commitment to literature as a tool for social change.
Barbara is the mother of two daughters, Camille and Lily, and is married to Steven Hopp, a professor of environmental sciences. In 2004, after more than 25 years in Tucson, Arizona, Barbara left the southwest to return to her native terrain. She now lives with her family on a farm in southwestern Virginia where they raise free-range chickens, turkeys, Icelandic sheep, and an enormous vegetable garden.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was assigned this book to read while I was a sophomore in college. It was the Fall of 1990 and the class was "Landscape and Literature". (And the professor was Martha Ackman, and she was great!) It was an interesting class, but I really enjoyed the reading material. At this point, Bean Trees had been around for a couple of years, but I had never heard of it, nor had I heard of Barbara Kingsolver. This novel was so absorbing, I didn't feel it was an assignment at all. I spent a great, warm October weekend sitting on my parents porch and reading this book.
I also think that this book has one of the best opening paragraphs in contemporary fiction. I won't give it away, but do yourself a favor and look for it at any bookstore. This novel is funny, sad, and touching. It was my introduction to Kingsolver, and I am glad I got a head start on her before many others did. This is a book that you'll ant to hold onto, to give to friends, to discuss...
Taylor Greer is one of the most engaging heroines in literature, and her unconventional story is infused with a real contemporary feel. What does that mean? I just mean that Kingsolver disucsses issues and people that many authors don't in popular american fiction (native american issues, central american politics, refugees, mixed marriages and Protestantism and catholicism all merge in one novel), and as a result, Kingsolver holds up a mirror of our world where we can see ourselves and society much clearer than before. I know that I sure did. Ten years later, I still can remember this book so vividly, it's never left me.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
THE BEAN TREES is a novel about a young woman, Taylor Greer, who leaves her home state of Kentucky to find a life outside of what she knew - growing up to become barefoot and pregnant. She wanted more than that, but she did not really know what she wanted.
She finally arrives in Tucson and meets a woman who wants to give Taylor a 3 year old child. Taylor promises to take care of the little girl. Whether the woman is the child's mother, we never do find out. But Taylor does find out right away that something is not right with the child. Turtle, the name Taylor gives the child, does not talk. Taylor also finds bruises over the child's body while giving her a bath. Maybe Taylor has saved this child from a horrible life, but now she is responsible for the welfare of this little Indian american girl.
But now what to do? No money and no job, and she's got a kid she never planned on having.
Taylor and Turtle end up in a small town in Arizona and after meeting several nice people who help them out, they end up living with a gal named Lou Ann, who has her own story to tell. The book is intertwined with the stories of both women so we get to know them both very well.
Along the way they meet and get involved with a hispanic couple, Estevan and Esperanza. They are from central America, and their story is a mystery, except we know Esperanza knows very little English, and Estevan was an English teacher in his home land. The four of them, along with little Turtle, become good friends, and soon Turtle is responding to the love she is getting from her new family. But there is still the mystery of what really happened to little Turtle....
THE BEAN TREES is the 2nd Barbara Kingsolver novel I have read, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE being the other one.
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By A Customer on August 20, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I had to read this book for a school assignment and at first didn't care to much for it. But Barbara Kingsolver really shows as one of the best. The plot is about a young woman by the name of Marietta. She doesn't like life in her hometown of Pittman, Kentucky. So she buys a car and heads west for a new life. She changes her name to Taylor and hopes for a great start, but as soon as she gets going she runs into to trouble. Taylor is given a baby girl who she names Turtle. All Taylor knows about Turtle is that no one cares about her and she had been abused. Taylor then takes on a life filled with many ups and downs. This book is full of vivid and clearly made characters that are so human that they will pull you in their world. This book becomes very attaching and gets very hard to put down. Once you get in to this book, you won't stop until it is over. And when it is over it leaves you imagination wondering for answers. Barbara Kingsolver had the perfect recipe for creating this book and it shows throughout the entire novel.
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By A Customer on January 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Barbara Kingsolver has struck gold in writing this book, The Bean Trees. It is a wonderful story of life, love, and challenges along the way. Taylor Greer is bored of her life in a tiny town in Kentucky. After a man she knows is killed in a tractor accident, Taylor purchases a '55 Volkswagen and drives off down the road. When she stops for a bite to eat, an Indian woman gives her a baby girl. "Just take it," she says, and disappears without an explanation. Taylor names the baby Turtle
A bit further down Taylor's Road of Life, she meets Lou Ann Ruiz. Lou Ann is a worrier with a baby, and her husband has left her. Together, Lou Ann and Taylor get through a lot of things, whether it's figuring out Turtle's real name, or helping two Guatemalan refugees live safely on a Cherokee reserve. Through babies, vegetables and cars, Taylor's story is a wonderfully real story. It feels very much unlike fiction to read this book, because it could really happen. I recommend this book to anyone ages 12 and older.
Comment 74 of 86 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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