180 of 187 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Wonderful
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,...
Published on December 8, 2000 by Edward Aycock
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Touching, but not compelling
After reading The Prodigal Summer and The Poisonwood Bible, I was disappointed in this effort by Kingsolver. The story is sweet, but does not move me to change my life or views on the world and Kingsolver's other books have. Some plot lines seem a little unfinished and rough. Also, the author is a little too blatant at times in sharing her political views, and the book...
Published on August 12, 2004 by Poison Wood
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180 of 187 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Wonderful,
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.
104 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little girl named Turtle....,
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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. This second novel reads quite differently than POISONWOOD BIBLE did, and I guess one reason is that THE BEAN TREES was written over a decade before. Ms. Kingsolver's skills as a story teller greatly improved between these two novels, but that does not mean THE BEAN TREES is a poorly written book. On the contrary, I found it very well written and enjoyable to read.
The feel of both books is very different. While POISONWOOD had the feel of an epic, THE BEAN TREES was a much more simpler novel (being a much shorter novel helped!) I can't say whether one book was better than the other. I liked both equally. What I'm finding I really like about Ms Kingsolver's books is that she is very good at character developement. She knows how to paint a character well enough that I was able to picture right away what these characters were all about. They were not shallow one dimensional people, but people I could care about.
Obviously, I am giving THE BEAN TREES a glowing recommendation. It was probably one of the better books I read in 2001.
72 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bean Trees,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Bean Trees Anniversary Edition: A Novel (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.
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bean Trees,
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.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book changed my universe!,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Bean Trees (Paperback)
The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver is literary fiction of the first order. Not only is it well-written, an interesting plot, and superbly characterized, it posesses a heartfelt moral vision of America and what America stands for, and should stand for. This book should be required reading for all Americans and Earthlings. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Ms. Kingsolver's politics (I agree) one must admit that a moral vision is presented in this book without being preachy or self righteous or "whiny" as much as that is hated these days. The Bean Trees is about the fact that what we've been brought up to believe is not necessarily true for others or for ourselves. It is a novel of compassion, hope, family, and the fact that the cult of "American individualism" is not only a lie, but is unnatural and wrong and unhealthy for human beings; we all need to help and be helped. Your life will be richer for reading this book!
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bean Trees is an excellent book in my opinion.,
By A Customer
The Bean Trees is an excellent book in my opinion. I read it for my 10th grade English class and really enjoyed it. It's about a young woman who leaves her Kentucky home to escape becoming pregnant at an early age and to see what else is out there. When she gets to Oklahoma, a woman puts a baby in her car and says take her. Taylor, the young woman, now had the burden of this young child. The rest of the the book deals with her learning to become a mother, fitting in, and realizing the hard decisions you have to make as an adult. There are many themes in The Bean Trees. One of the main ones, in my opinion, is family. Throughout the story, Taylor has to learn how to be part of a family. Her father had left her and her mother when she was young so she doesn't know what a complete family feels like. When she reaches Arizona, her final destination, she meets Lou Ann. She becomes her new roomate.Lu Ann also has a child named Dwayne Ray. She and her husband, Angel, have gotten a divorce and he had left them so Lou Ann is also searching for a "family." So, this novel also deals with Taylor, Turtle (her baby), Lou Ann and Dwayne Ray learning how to become a family. Taylor, who's original name was Missy, is a very independent, outspoken person. She's never needed help from anyone before so when she gets Turtle, she has to learn how to get help from other people and become more interdependent rather than independent. Turtle is a small child about the age of three. When Taylor first got her she thought she was two but later in the book she finds out otherwise. Turtle is indian and was abused sexually by her aunt's boyfriend. You find out more about that in the book. She is a very quiet person and clings. She got the name Turtle because she would grab on to something and not let go. Just like a mud turtle. She learns how to open up throughout the story. Lou Ann was a very insecure person. She had an extremely low self-esteem and didn't try to do anything with herself. Taylor helps her to open up and not be so critical. She also has another trait. She is terrified that any little thing could kill Dwayne Ray or Turtle. Eventually she becomes less paranoid and relaxes a little. Barbara Kingsolver has a unique style that adds interest to the book. She uses a lot of similies to help us better understand what she's talking about. For example, "Edna was so sweet we just hoped she would cancel out Virgie's sour, like the honey and vinegar in my famous Chinese recipe." Kingsolver also uses symbolism. One of her most common is birds. She uses other symbols but these appear the most. Again, for example, when Taylor takes Turtle to the doctor to get checked out for her abuse earlier in life, she looks out the window while the doctor is telling her all the horrible things that had happened and she sees a mother bird making a nest within a cactus. The bird doesn't seem to realize it's danger as it zooms past the spines, it is only concerned with making a safe haven for it's family. So as you can see, The Bean Trees is a very inspirational novel and it's fascinating how Kingsolver ties everything in at the end. I recommend it for all and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars astonishing first novel,
For a long time I have been intending to pick up Kingsolver and give her a read. When I worked at a bookstore as a youngster I remember often being amazed that if we were to sell only a handful of copies of a popular book, even a few years after being published, that this would be a pretty good track record. And the bookstore I worked at was a pretty big deal. So when I constantly found myself repacking the shelf with slews of newly re-ordered Kingsolver books, I would wonder why she was perhaps one of the best selling author in the store. Now I know. `The Bean Trees' is a very well crafted tale.
The story here in `Bean Trees' is at its heart one of the most simple plot structures you will ever come across. It is as old as the hills and authors have been using this story line to tell stories in one way or another as far back in time as I have read. This is a coming of age tale wrapped around the charismatic character Taylor. What makes this book so unique is that primarily it is filled with side winding tales that spin the imagination off onto engaging tangents. I think that this might be Kingsolver's first book if I read her bio correctly. If it is, this is a very remarkable achievement. Few authors that I have read wrote a more impacting first novel, and those would be luminaries such as Updike, Mailer, Heller, and Salinger.
My only beef with this story is that it does not really hit any true depths of emotion. It churns along on the surface of positively. I think that it plays a little too easily with the heartstrings. I was a little mad with Kingsolver in that she made everything a little too easy while attempting to offer a world of depravity cascading around the edges. This is part of the point of the book in a way... but still, it felt too clean... too calculated.
I am entirely looking forwards to reading the rest of Kingsolver's work. I will look forwards to seeing how she develops as an author. And I would %100 recommend this book to anyone.
37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of heart-felt emotion,
This review is from: The Bean Trees (Paperback)
Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away from her home town. But when she heads west with high hopes and a barely-functional car, she meets the human condition head-on. By the time Taylor arrives in Tucson, Arizona, she has taken responsibility for a three-year-old American Indian girl named Turtle, and must somehow come to terms with both motherhood and the necessity for putting down roots. Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places.
"The Bean Trees," by Barbara Kingsolver, gives readers something that's increasingly hard to find today -- a character to believe in, laugh with and admire. Talyor Greer is a feisty woman who readers love to relate to. Kingsolver uses character development by showing Taylor's compassion and determined spirit when she encounters new-found Central American refugees. The simple use of dialogue shows the feelings of the characters. From the use of dialogue, the reader experiences the human condition through Taylor's eyes.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A DELIGHTFUL READ,
Through the wisdom of a poor young Kentucky girl, Taylor Greer, the reader is educated to a life well-lived if not always in opulence, and lessons well learned if not always easy. At age 22, give or take, Taylor begins a migration in a beat-up Volkswagon Bug to find her destiny.....her destiny being a 3 year old child named Turtle, thrust upon her by a Cherokee Indian woman in Oklahoma, and a a tire store in Tuscon, Arizona. Turtle is nearly catatonic when Taylor receives her, and the story of Turtle's and Taylor's developement in Arizona is the crux of this page-turning read. A cast of eccentric, but loveable characters enter their lives, surrounding them with color and flavor. Much more humorous and light than "Posionwood Bible," Barbara Kingsolver proves herself a most versitile writer with a penchant for grabbing her audience and not letting go. I laughed; I cried; I emoted varied emotions and fell deeply in like with this misfit cast of characters. A wonderful, enjoyable read.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet and Touching,
I just finished reading this book for my comp. lit. class ,and it's absolutely one of the best novels I've ever read. I found that Barbara Kingsolver's style of writing in "The Bean Trees" is very much like the style she used in "The Poisonwood Bible" (also a book I recommend). She becomes her characters, in a way, and makes everything she writes about seem so real. You feel involved in the story, as if you're there with the characters. I'm sure many people could relate to the way her characters talk and think, the things they talk about, and the experiences they have. These elements are what make Barbara Kingsolver's novels such engaging page-turners.
"The Bean Trees" is about a spunky, spirited, Kentucky born girl named Taylor Greer. She was raised by her mother in a poor, rural Kentucky town--- a place she desperately wanted to leave. She manages to leave Kentucky in her early twenties and heads for the open road. She's not sure where she's going, but figures that almost anywhere is better than Kentucky. She travels in a beat-up '55 Volkswagen that requires a push to get moving.
She ends up in Tucson, Arizona with a three year old American Indian girl she names Turtle, given to her by an Indian woman who told Taylor to "just take it" (referring to Turtle). Realizing that she's now a parent, Taylor knows she has to be more responsible. She takes a job at "Jesus Is Lord Used Tires" in Tucson, which also happens to be a sanctuary for Central American refugees, and finds a roommate, with whom she becomes good friends.
The story follows her new life in Arizona and different relationships Taylor forms, most importantly, the one she comes to have with Turtle.
This book is so touching and real, yet it maintains a wry sense of humor. You get to know the characters and become attached to them. Toward the end of the book, I came close to tears, as Taylor had to say goodbye to two good friends. Despite this, the ending leaves you with hope.
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The Bean Trees: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver (Paperback - May 19, 2009)