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The Bean Trees: A Novel Paperback – May 7, 2013
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From the Back Cover
Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away. 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 acquired a completely unexpected child, 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.
About the Author
Barbara Kingsolver's work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned a devoted readership at home and abroad. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country's highest honor for service through the arts. She received the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work, and in 2010 won Britain's Orange Prize for The Lacuna. Before she made her living as a writer, Kingsolver earned degrees in biology and worked as a scientist. She now lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.
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The story (and it's a good story) is about family, friendship and our responsibilities as people.
To give an example of Kingsolver's style (of which I have long been a fan) her description of Taylor's first stop, a bar in Oklahoma:
"..and the black grease on the back of the stove looked like it had been there since the Dawn of Man. The air in there was so hot and stale it felt like I had to breathe it twice to get any oxygen out of it." - p. 21
At this point Taylor is 'given' an Indian baby girl - whom she callsTurtle.
And this, a description of the house she ends up sharing with Lou Ann and her baby Dwayne Rae:
"The house was old and roomy, there was plenty of space for Turtle's bed in my room. It was the type of house they called a "rambling bungalow" (the term reminded me somehow of Elvis Presley movies) with wainscoting and steam radiators and about fifty coats of paint on the door frames..." - p. 191
Taylor has a job, and gets to know two Guatemalan refugees who are being helped by Mattie, Taylor's boss. Now Taylor is starting to understand the sort of problems other people face, and so when she decides to try to sort out her own legal standing with Turtle, she volunteers to take Estevan and Esperanza with her.
This scene where the Guatemalans are posing as Turtle's natural parents, giving Taylor permission to adopt her, was heart-wrenching:
"Esperanza...held her against her chest, rocking back and forth for a very long time with her eyes squeezed shut...the rest of us watched... Here was a mother and her daughter, nothing less. A mother and child - in a world that could barely be bothered with mothers and children - who were going to be taken apart. Everybody believed it." - p. 291
How appropriate for this time!
But, heavens sakes, go ahead and read it. You will be amazed and can feast on her words. And then go eat some chocolate and feel better!