Sunday, January 1, 2012

Book Review: Bean Tree by Barbara Kingslover

The Bean Tree
By Barbara Kingslover

My own copy

The Bean Tree,  is the story about Taylor. She is raised by her single mother. She thinks the world of her daughter and is glad, that she traded her husband for her.

Taylor doesn't want to be like the other teen age girls in the rural town of Kentucky, barefoot and pregnant at the age of 16. 
Instead she chooses a different route, with her mother's encouragement, she gets a job in a hospital as a lab technician for 5 years. Until she buys herself a old dilapidated, old 1955, VW Bug, then she decides she wants to leave, and find her roots in Oklahoma, where her grandfather's roots are from, Cherokee blood. 

She arrives in Oklahoma, and her car breaks down. While, there she is left with a Cherokee child, in her care. Which is ironic. Since, that was the reason she left Kentucky. Not be saddled with a child to begin with.  She leaves Oklahoma, after the car is repaired with her new charge,  named" Turtle", toward Arizona.

She arrives at a old tire shop, called Jesus is Lord Tire Shop. The tire shop owner named Mattie, she befriends and turns out that she runs a "Safe house for illegals". She becomes friends with a couple, named Estevan and Esperanza. They are illegals, from South America. They were forced to leave because of political tyranny. 

Esperanza, has a void in her heart because she had to leave her daughter behind.  She becomes very attached to Turtle. 

In the meantime, Taylor becomes friendly with another fellow Kentuckian, LouAnn.
She just had a child, Ray.  Her husband, a Mexican has left her. 

 LouAnn is a quiet, subdued young woman, she doesn't have confidence in herself. 
Where as Taylor, is rebellious and upfront, and opinionated. They both decide it would be a good idea financially to live together.  

Spoiler-Don't read any further if you plan to read The Bean Tree.

Turtle, is observed by LouAnn, and a few friends think something is wrong with Turtle. 
She does talk, and very slow. It is slowly revealed that possible she was abused, sexual, and physically. Taylor takes Turtle to the doctor and reveals she is not 2, but actually 3 years old. There is a diagnosis" Failure to Thrive". This is due to poor nutrition, and poor interaction with people.  But, because of Taylor's care and concern she eventually comes out of it. 

LouAnn finally starts taking a stand for herself and gets a job at a Salsa Company. She becomes her own person, and learns to become self reliant, and independent. She develops a friendship that develops, and possible will blossom to something more, LouAnn hopes.

 Taylor has to take Turtle to the physician because of a incident. Here she eventually is exposed. The social worker in Arizona find out. She has two options search out Turtle's true parents, and ask her to be adopted by her, and give her up to be taken in foster care.  

The other, is Estevan and Esperanza have to leave Mattie's Safe House. Taylor at the same time has to go back to Oklahoma to search for Turtle's parents, she takes Esperanza and Estefan with her.  

My Thoughts:  I have been wanting to read, The Bean Trees for a very long time. It has been on my pile of books for years. Finally by my recommendation we are reading The Bean Trees for our book club.  This is my first book I am posting for the new year of 2012.  It is going on both of my challenges that I am participating in.  Where are You Reading 2012, and Southern Fiction Challenge.

I am glad I read this novel, it was very different kind of book that I am used to reading. It was a breath of fresh air. It was at times sad, but uplifting at the same time. The author, knew how to combine the two to not make this not a depressing novel. She does make a stand, with her issues of illegal immigration, feminism, sexual and physical abuse and harassment, ecology, vegetarianism, and her science education, and Kentucky roots.  But, she does not make it, so overpowering obvious.

The novel, was written over 20 years ago.   Oops! This age me. 

  The book reminded me of living in the 1960's. I got the feeling of a hippie age, beatnik, take a stand, revolution. You remember the Beatles song, REVOLUTION? That song kept popping in my head, while I was reading The Bean Trees. This would have been a perfect book, for college students during the 1960's. With lots of social issues.

  Motherhood, and community, was the large theme.  what is the definition of  a traditional family? What makes up a family? Several places in the book, I saw what Kingslover was trying to connect. 

I l enjoyed the metaphors, similarities, comparisons, and symbols. Now, that I am out of school, I noticed the literary tools we used to have to find in our English classes. Isn't funny, that I notice it now, rather than years ago in English class some eons ago.

The part of the story that sticks out is the description of the Bean tree, and how it thrives.

The Title, of The Bean Tree, came from the description of the similarities of the Bean. The Bean  needs to thrive from bacteria to make it grow. This is the same for friends and family allowing you to mature, physically and psychologically with emotional support. I loved this explanation.   This is the author's science knowledge comes shining through.

My next post will be the book club reaction to the Bean Tree in a few days.  Thanks for taking the time to stop by. If anyone has read The Bean Tree I would love to hear what your thoughts were.


bermudaonion said...

I read this when it first came out and have been a fan of Kingsolver's ever since. Happy New Year!

Introverted Jen said...

I loved this book. My favorite Kingsolver might actually be Prodigal Summer though.

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