65 of 69 people found the following review helpful
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PIGS IN HEAVEN by Barbara Kingsolver
PIGS IN HEAVEN is the sequel to Barbara Kingsolver's book THE BEAN TREES. The novel continues the story of the Cherokee child named "Turtle" and her adoptive mother Taylor Greer. In this sequel, we find Turtle and Taylor living together in Tucson along with Taylor's boyfriend, a life that is not quite what would be called the most perfect of environments. They live in poverty, barely making ends meet. Although Taylor does her best, her income is limited, but she gives Turtle a lot of love, and along with her boyfriend, Turtle has a new family. Turtle seems happy, and after years of being mute due to a history of abuse, she's learned to talk, and all seems to be going well.
Unfortunately, Cherokee attorney Annawake Fourkiller accidentally discovers the existence of 6-year-old Turtle, and learns that Taylor had illegally adopted Turtle outside the Cherokee nation. Annawake is ready to rectify this problem. As far as she's concerned, Turtle needs to be raised by the Cherokee. Taylor, however, does not see this, and does what she can to protect her child.
Turtle and Taylor are now on the run, fleeing from their home in Tucson and leaving the boyfriend behind. They live from motel room to motel room, eating what they can afford. It gets to a point where Taylor does not know what to do next, in fear that she and Turtle will be discovered and eventually Turtle will be taken away from her. Yet, she wonders if what she is doing to Turtle is the right thing to do. When Alice Greer, Taylor's mother, gets involved, the story takes a surprising turn, and soon Turtle's biological family gets involved as well. I was glued to the book, wanting to know whether Taylor gets to keep Turtle, or is told to hand over the child to the Cherokee Nation.
Many important issues are brought up in PIGS IN HEAVEN. Should a child of American Indian heritage be allowed to live away from his or her tribe? Should the child be allowed to be raised among the white people, never knowing his true heritage? Turtle was completely happy with Taylor, and she did not know any other mother or life. The issue of whether it was a moral crime to separate the two is a big theme, with a fitting conclusion at the end of the story.
I really enjoyed this book, having already read THE BEAN TREES, which I loved as much as this one. Both stories center on the welfare of Turtle, an endearing little Indian girl that will capture your heart. However, after reading PIGS IN HEAVEN, I doubted that what Taylor did was right. It actually gave me a different perspective on the first book.
The two books should be read in sequence, but reading one or the other will not detract in the enjoyment of either. I highly recommend both books. For those that have read Kingsolver's POISONWOOD BIBLE or PRODIGAL SUMMER, neither book is comparable to these two. The four seem to be written by different authors, simply because the style and tone of these books are very different. I give PIGS IN HEAVEN 4 stars.
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
First off I have to say that I think Barbara Kingsolver is a great writer. She writes with deep felt emotion and feeling, creating well rounded and fully realized characters that you care about.That being said I felt "Pigs in Heaven" was a bit of a disappointment. Revisiting the characters she introduced in "The Bean Trees",Kingsolver weaves the story around young Turtle's American Indian heritage and her adoptive mother's paternal claims on her.One of the things I didn't enjoy was that she moves the narrative from first person to third which seems to be a device to introduce an entirely new set of sympathetic voices to add to the custody conflict. And although I can understand why the choice was made, it still made me feel somewhat removed from Taylor, the central voice of the previous novel.To me the book felt like three separate stories that were tied together instead of one solid narrative.Ultimately the story raises some interesting points about race and family, managing to be both provoking and moving if not quite as sucessfully as it's predecessor.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 1999
Being a big fan of _The Bean Trees_, the blatant opportunity to get that "more" I was left wanting was irresistable. Did I like the book? Sure! Did I love it? Not exactly. The big mess that ensued cleaned itself up like an episode of "The Brady Bunch", and as nice and quaint as the romance between Alice and Cash was, it didn't thrill me. Taylor's constant fear of attachment to anyone but Turtle was simultaneously relatable and maddening. Annawake was given little chance to develop beyond one and a half dimensions, and all I want to say about Jax and Gundi is that I was left haunted by how simple infidelity can be. That scene made me fear for my then long-distance relationship, and I never quite liked Jax as much afterwards. The story itself was good enough, and as real as the characters all are, my appetite for their world was satiated.
However, I adore Kingsolver's style of writing. She really has a way of drawing me in with her stories, presenting characters who partake in political endeavors without seeming self-righteous, making me think about the world around me but still providing an enjoyable read. I would not recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read _The Bean Trees_, 99% of all men, or those who seek concrete realism in what they read. Kingsolver's storybook outlook on life is what makes me love her writing so much. I see no impossibility in living such an existence.
For the record: I do not find soaps entertaining, have never touched a romance novel, and never will. I still love Barbara Kingsolver's books. So there!
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2000
Barbara Kingsolver has written a magnificent novel with the creation of Pigs in Heaven. Not only does she enable the reader to identify with each character, but she invites the reader to bask in the full beauty of the West. My favorite element that Kingsolver adds to her novel is that of relationships. Throughout the entire plot one concept remains strong: the relationships between women are beautifully orchestrated in an effort to connect each character. The characters of this novel are not one-dimensional; they are complex. Rarely in literature is an author able to accomplish such a feat. Through her extravagent plot, Kingsolver proves that these women are all connected by a common bond. The barriers of race and culture do not apply to the women's ability to ultimately understand one another. I was personally entranced by this novel. I often found it difficult to drag myself away from the plot. In the past four months, I have read the book twice. Each time I was amazed by Kingsolver's ability to formulate such meaningful and sincere characters. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in engaging themselves in a less-than-ordinary novel. The plot is superior to any that I have read in quite some time. I would go so far as to guarantee that two pages into the book, any reader will be drawn to the suspense that only the end can resolve.
36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 1999
Common throughtout many fictional novels, the issues of family, love, and truth are all dealt with in Barbara Kingsolver's, "Pigs in Heaven". Unlike many other novels that either deal with one of these themes, or all of them sporadically, the events and themes throughout "Pigs in Heaven" are interconnected. This type of plot webbing makes the book much more intresting, allowing the reader to become involved with many different characters, instead of just one or two. When I began this required reading assignment, I was not instantly intrigued by the beginning. Actually, I wanted to throw the book away after the first chapter, because it did not grab my attention. I knew I had to read the book, so evry night I made myself read a chapter. By the third night I noticed that I could not put this book down. What I loved most about "Pigs in Heaven", where the characters. Barbara Kingsolver has a gift for making her characters painstakingly realistic. At times I felt like I was Taylor, trying to keep Turtle, or I was Jax, trying to keep a hold on my love. Sometimes, I was Annawake who was trying to preserve the culture of the Cherokee Nation. In "Pigs in Heaven", readers will have something in common with all of these characters, just as I did when I read this novel. The book provides a setting that is not mentioned enough in American Literature, the Cherokee Nation. It allowed me to look beyond the Indian identity that I was use to, where Indians wore feather and shot arrows, to the real life situations that happens on Cherokee reservations. "Pigs in Heaven" is a great book for when you just want to relax, and let the book become a part of you.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2001
I agree with all the other reviewers! However, let me make one observation. All the other reviewers that rated the book highly appear to be women. This book is an "adventure"/journey/sojourn
of a woman and I found it very, ahhh, "Oprahesque".......people who like Oprah's picks will like this book. I read the predecessor to this book, know the characters from that book, and enjoyed this story less. Don't give up here on my review because Kingsolver had some choice nuggets in this book that I will discuss farther down. I found the book very slow going, not a page turner at all. The characters are quirky if not downright eccentric. The plot is really really out there. Mom and daughter watch man fall into Hoover Dam??? Then go on Oprah?? Whoda thunk? Then an Indian lawyer spots them on TV and decides to go after Mom? Sheeesh!
What I do like is the author's insights into human nature and keen observations on the human condition. She puts these into tiny "nuggets" of expression and sprinkles them lightly throughout. I just wish they were sprinkled a little more generously I guess.
Here's an example: I thought the Author's description of Jax, Taylor's boyfriend, and their relationship was great. Jax really is crazy about Taylor but Taylor is lukewarm at best about her feelings for Jax. Unfortunately, this is a minor thread in the story. Jax says: " Sex will get you through times with no money better than money will get you through times with no sex".
Also, Taylor's mom, after joining the Cherokee Nation and attending her first Indian Stomp Dance reflects on feeling completely included in something for the first time in a long time in her life. Those insights into the human condition are what I love in Kingsolver's writing. I guess I want more of those nuggets of her observation. The nuggets were few and far between.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 1999
When I first received the assignment in my English class to read Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver, I didn't have great expectations. Judging from the cover and the name of the novel, it did not seem like my type of literature. I usually enjoy reading action novels, and I can't stand reading romance novels. So, I even disliked the novel even worse when it started out with an old woman complaining about her marriage. I thought I was in for a long boring book. But, I continued reading the book, mostly because I had to, and soon found myself enjoying it. Pigs in Heaven is an exciting novel that makes you really feel for the main characters, and gives you a good sense for the Cherokee Indians. Unlike my original fears that Pigs in Heaven was a romance novel, it actually turned out more comparable to an action than a romance. Even though the novel did focus in on a few relationships, they weren't the main focus. Contrarily the main focus of the novel was on a little Cherokee girl Turtle, who was trying to get taken away from her adoptive mother by the Cherokee Nation. Turtle and her mother desperately didn't want to get separated, and were prepared to do anything to remain together. Their love for each other, along with their hardships really make you sympathize for them. At times you feel frustrated about how things unfold for the two. You feel like you want to help these two people out, and let them go back to their normal life. This keeps you very interested and makes you want to read more, to find out if their problems are resolved. But there are also very strong points given by their enemy, The Cherokee Nation, of why the two should not remain together. What I personally enjoyed most was the history and culture of the Cherokee Indians included in their argument. It was definitely fascinating. It was great to learn how Indians today actually live, and how their family life works. It was also neat to read about aspects of their culture, like stomp dances. The way the author described some of these events were extremely vivid, and sent shivers down your spine. It was also very educational to read of some Cherokee history. It really gave you a sense of understanding of the Cherokee peoples view point. Pigs in Heaven definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat with your feelings toward the main characters, and is also a good educational experience. I am glad I stuck with the book after my early opinions of it. I really enjoyed it , even though it isn't the type of book I usually read. I think that says a lot about the quality of Pigs in Heaven.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2000
One, it's beautiful. This woman can write. From elegant descriptions to well-formed characters, nothing disappoints the mature reader. Two, it deserves a willing suspension of disbelief. So the plot is a bit unlikely; it doesn't matter. And I've lived long enough to know that it's only slightly unlikely that some of the strangers in this novel would prove to have connections. If a lyrical, meaningful, warm-hearted and provocative big story is what you crave, read this. Don't dismiss this as a woman's story, or a story about women who don't understand men. Although the male characters have smaller roles, they are very important, and very likeable. Kingsolver does a virtuoso trick of letting you see them through the eyes of flawed observers and yet rather more clearly. As for the negative reviews: You might also note that nearly all of those who didn't like this book commented on their own political divergence of opinion or were forced to read it for school. Who asked them about their politics? Who cares? As for the mewling high schoolers, too many of whom have a lot of trouble spelling, punctuating or matching cases, please realize that bathroom images are not an impressive metaphor for your opinion. Less emotion and more substance from both sets, please.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"All families are weird." So one of Barbara Kingsolver's characters declares, and he is (of course) absolutely correct. But what is a family, anyway? Why is this concept such an important one, and how does it change from one culture to another?
When Taylor Greer reluctantly fell in love - not with a man, but with an abused and terrified little girl abandoned in her car - she found out, day by day and challenge by challenge, what motherhood meant. "Pigs in Heaven" opens three years after the conclusion of "The Bean Trees," in which Taylor adopted Turtle (so named because of the way the child hung onto her) by typically unconventional means. Turtle is a happy and healthy six-year-old now, and Taylor has settled into an uncommitted but loving domestic partnership with a man who adores them both. Mother and daughter are visitng the Hoover Dam, on a vacation that professional musician Jax can't share, when Turtle is the only witness to a retarded man's accident. The resulting rescue puts mother and daughter on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Where idealistic Cherokee attorney Annawake Fourkiller sees them, hears Taylor tell Oprah how she came to adopt her daughter, and realizes that Turtle - a child of color "found" by a white woman during a trip across Oklahoma - must surely be a fellow Cherokee.
Annawake Fourkiller visits Taylor Greer to let her know that under the Indian Child Welfare Act, Turtle still belongs to her tribe no matter what legal proceeding may have given her to anyone else. The young lawyer doesn't anticipate what Taylor promptly does - which, of course, is run. Leaving Jax behind in a heartbeat, along with every other part of her support system, she takes to the road because it seems like the only sure way to keep her daughter.
What follows is an odyssey of discovery not just for Taylor and Turtle, but (although she doesn't travel as far as they do physically) for Annawake Fourkiller as well. Not to mention for Taylor's mother, Alice, who comes west from Kentucky after her recent second marriage expires from boredom; for Jax, who stays behind in Tucson; and for Cash Stillwater, an aging Cherokee who returns to the tribe after leaving it several years earlier when he lost his mother, wife, and adult daughter, all within a few months of each other.
"Pigs in Heaven" is another of Kingsolver's marvelous depictions of human nature as it really is. Always honest - sometimes brutally so - its humorous and occasionally lyrical prose brings the characters' interwoven stories together at last, in a way that may not surprise most readers but is nevertheless profoundly satisfying.
A keeper. I can always count on this writer to make me think as well as feel!
--Reviewed by Nina M. Osier, author of "Love, Jimmy: A Maine Veteran's Longest Battle"
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 1999
The novel Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver is a book for all ages. Not only does it deal with external conflicts but internal conflicts as well. A brilliant cast of characters include Taylor, who is trying to run from the law; Turtle, a six year old girl of Cherokee background; Alice, Taylor's mother who is trying to solve all troubles for her daughter; Jax, Taylor's insecure boyfriend who tries to relieve his stress by playing in a band; Barbie, a woman who revolves her whole life around that of a Barbie doll and tags along with Taylor to get away from her troubles; and Annawake, a lady who works as an attorney for the Cherokee nation who is persuing Taylor's illegal adoption. Throughout the novel these characters experience heartbreak, emotional breakdowns, betrayl, racial issues, and the test of family ties and the truth. I can compare Pigs in Heaven to a roller coaster. Some chapters keep you interested while others allow you to drift off. For the most part the novel kept you drawn into the ups and downs of the Greer family and those whose lives are connected. Through the book the reader may take two perspectives: understanding the ways of the Cherokees, or accepting the reasons of running behind Taylor and Alice. Throughout your reading you may find yourself taking sides and finding it hard to reason with the opposing side's opinions and values. Either way you become entangled in the crisis of each individual character. As the book comes to an end you watch how each crisis is dealt with and how it slowly becomes resolved, leading to the conclusion. The themes in the book such as tribal values versus family values, the tradition of independence in the Greer family, and cultural awareness develop and become more obvious as the conflicts start to unravel. The novel ends well, but raises many real questions that are not as easily answered. Overall, Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver gets my two thumbs up.