3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2001
After reading The Poisonwood Bible, I decided to read some of her other works. The story started out with promise - a young woman on here way to anywhere is handed an unwanted child. Taylor's character was plucky and quirky enough to keep me interested.
Once she finds a destination to settle in, Tuscon, AZ, the plot begins to meander without much conflict to stir things up. I usually go by the "fifty page rule" - if I'm not totally involved by page fifty, I stop reading. In this case, I got halfway through the book - over a hundred pages before I gave up and quit reading.
As this was written well before the Poisonwood Bible, one can see a dramatic improvement from The Bean Trees to her more recent works.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2001
I'm being a little hard on Kingsolver with just two stars, but that's partly because I have also read her amazing POISONWOOD BIBLE, a work of gratifying emotional and psychological complexity. BEAN TREES, by contrast, seems simplistic and shallow. For example, the characters in BEAN TREES divide up neatly into the not just good but positively heroic gals (Taylor, her employer, her neighbors, her roommate) and the bad guys (INS, various ex-husbands and boyfriends). Notice that these categories also divide up neatly by gender. For whatever reason, Kingsolver doesn't address the male point of view at all, except to use men as cardboard villains creating the problems that the women have to deal with. This may be a point of view worth addressing, but I'm dismayed to find it the only point of view, period.(Estevan is a woman's mind in a man's character). The result is that BEAN TREES reads more like a light fantasy than a challenging novel. In POISONWOOD BIBLE, Kingsolver dealt skillfully and realistically with the personal and political tragedies. But in BEAN TREES, all the loose ends are wrapped up neatly and unconvincingly in no time at all. The ending in particular seemed contrived to make things work out a particular way. As a reader, I grant the author complete suspension of my disbelief in establishing the premises of a novel, but then I expect the writer to follow the implications of those premises to their logical ends, for better or worse. POISONWOOD BIBLE satisfied me in this respect, but BEAN TREES did not. On the other hand, I greatly admired the characterization of the Taylor character, especially the little "Kentucky-ism's" she threw into the dialogue. In this respect Kingsolver reminds me of Larry McMurtry, whose Texas characters' colorful speech keep even his lesser productions highly entertaining. As long as Taylor and also Lou Ann were speaking out loud, I enjoyed the book a great deal. When the preaching about American policy toward illegal aliens kicked in, I skipped ahead to the next part which actually dealt with her characters. I think Kingsolver is really on to something with this sort of character, grounded in Appalachian Kentucky, and I'd like to see the author explore her possibilities in novels more ambitious than this one.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2001
The first book I read of Barbara Kingsolver's was The Poisonwood Bible. It was so good that I decided to read more of her stuff. Unfortunately, it's all down hill from there folks. Poisonwood is fabulous and I've not found her other books to be any where near as good. In fact I read The Bean Trees a few months ago and I really can't remember much about it. Barbara Kingsolver is a talented writer, but this one just didn't hit the mark for me.
on July 15, 2004
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver is a book rich in metaphors and similes. It is a story about a young girl who escapes her small town, where most young people drop out of school, and the girls get pregnant. For Missy, these are not options. She buys herself a car and heads out for maturing experiences. Her first decision is that since she is starting a new life, she needs a new name, so she calls herself "Taylor." As she is driving, she tells herself she will stop and live in the city in which her car breaks down. This doesn't happen because along the way, she picks up a passenger, a little Native American baby. Now she has herself and the baby to worry about. She stops in Arizona and loves it. So, she decides to stay. It is in this town, she discovers friendship, love, responsibility, maturity, and the true meaning of family.
The physical descriptions in the book, while at times, may seem over done, are truely what make the book a vivid, potent journey. Before Taylors journey begins, she is working in a hospital and one of the girls she went to school with, but got pregnant and married, is brought into the hospital covered in blood, and Missy says she was, "...like a butcher holding down a calf on its way to becoming a cut of meat" (10). She also witnesses a tire blowing up and says, "... Newt Hardbine's daddy flying up into the air, in slow motion, like a fish flinging sideways out of the water. And Newt laid out like a hooked bass" (15). Then when she gets to Arizona, she see rocks that were "...stacked on top of one another like piles of copulating potato bugs" (47). These are just a few of the similies that enrich the story. She also uses metaphors in abundance to create a picture.
She compares driving in traffic during a hail storm as ...moving about the speed of a government check" (49). Kingsolver uses metaphors to compare some of the characters' lives. Taylor says "...but I had to give her credit, considering that life had delivered Sandi a truckload of manure with no return address" (89). In comparing a park she loves to visit, Taylor says, "Constellations of gum-wrapper foil twinkled around the trash barrels" (148). The best description comes in the combination of metaphor and simile in the description of the night-blooming cereus: "The petals stood out in starry rays, and in the center of each flower there was a complicated contruction of silvery threads shaped like a pair of cupped hands catching moonlight. A fairy boat, ready to be launched into the darkness" (249). The pictures are that vivid.
If you need a book that is rich in description using similies and metaphors, read The Bean Trees.
on June 20, 2004
For me, this was one of the best books I've ever read. I usually stick with a sure-fire bestseller like "Da Vinci" or "Bark of the Dogwood," not wanting to miss what everyone else is talking about. But I happened across this great read and HAD to write a review. It's a very well-crafted novel. Each character was well defined and had their own personality. There were no two personalities a like in this novel. The characters seem to change as the story goes on, and they eventually grow on you. My favorite character was Taylor. Taylor ended up with a child whose name she did not know. She eventually named the child "Turtle" due to the fact she wouldn't let go of objects. Taylor then entered Tucson Arizona where she had two flat tires and had to stay for a while to come up with the money to fix it. Here in Tucson she ran into another lady named Lou Ann. The story goes on, but you should really read it yourself to get the feel. Iwould recommend this book to anyone and everyone. There were many times when tears would fill my eyes with the heart-felt things that Taylor would say. Sometimes I thought it was myself talking. I believe that everyone was put here for least reason: to love. If you have to read a book, this one is it. Would also recommend "Bark of the Dogwood" and "Catcher in the Rye."
on May 11, 2004
This was a great book, although it's not my favorite. The main character is Taylor Greer, who has lived her whole life in Kentucky with her mom. Determined not to get pregnant like some other people she knows, she leaves Kentucky to travel as far as her car will take her. On the way, she meets an Indian woman who unexpectedly gives her a child whose past was filled with horrible events for someone as young as her. Taylor becomes attatched to this toddler, whom she names Turtle, but must rise to the challenge of parenthood. Accompanied on her journey by charming and loving friends, Talyor watches Turtle grow older, alerting Taylor to the situation of legal adoption if she wants to keep Turtle. This story is a touching one of friendship, determination, and unconditional love. The thing that is most memorable about this book, though, is it's many philosophical ideas that Taylor receives from other characters in the story. For example, one character tells Taylor, "Whatever you want the most,it's going to be the worst thing for you." Kingsolver has cleverly interwined deep ideas to create a more meaningful story. This book is a good read for a rainy day if you have a few hours. If you are interested in this story, there is also a companion book to it called Pigs in Heaven, also a very good book.
on May 6, 2004
"The Bean Trees" by Barbara Kingsolver is a story of determination, love, motherhood and responsibility. In this truly touching and uplifting story of exploration and growth, a wayward spirit finds her path, and learns to live and let live. Although at first I was skeptical as to the subject of the story, thinking it was just another girly book, I came to very much enjoy the way in which this book was written, with deeper meaning around every corner and description in that down-to -earth, no-nonsense manner that really made me pay attention. The female-empowerment tone to this book makes it an even more attractive read to women, and talks the reader through difficult, shocking and amazing challenges.
Not content with her life in Pittman County, a small town in Kentucky, fiery Marietta Greer breaks free from those low expectations and travels away from home looking for herself,not knowing where she is going or when she will get there. Her somewhat slow start to life swiftly accelerates as she comes upon a baby girl, meets amazing people and forges her path in life. This marvelous novel's pace accelerates until it reaches a dramatic close, a close leaving me satisfied...but still wanting more. The pain of a small-town existence as well and the vastness of the world outside are expressed in harsh relief in this truly excellent book. Kingsolver's storytelling made my heart go out to little Turtle, my pity to Lou Ann, and my contempt to Angel. I really connected with these characters, as I, the reader fell into the story, submerged in the rich adventures, only able to extract myself at the climactic finish. This book is also a harsh exposure to the horrors of immigration. I found myself horrified by the depth of abuse Esperanza and Esteven endure, as I connected with such dynamic characters as Mattie. As I read this book, I found myself questioning my morals the whole way, my eyes opening to a bigger scheme of things, a place where beans grow on trees and tire shops are named Jesus Is Lord.
"The Bean Trees" is so choc-full of emotion it will leave you dizzy as you are caught up in the whirlwind of life that is Miss Taylor Greer's.
I recommend this book very much; it is a captivating and interesting read, a joy to experience.
on April 21, 2004
This book is set in The Southwest during the 1970s-1980s. It tells of a young woman's journey from indifference within her society and her need to elevate herself from what was inspected of her life in a small town: grow up, go to high school, get pregnant and married, remain in town until death. Taylor (Missy) Greer has avoided the stereotypical expectations by graduating from high school, getting a job as a hospital aide, saving money to buy herself a broken-down relic of a car, and leaving Pittman County, Kentucky, forever.
Taylor decides to leave her small town and begin her search for her own independence and identity. Whereas she begins her travels with carefree attitude of "no strings attached," she is quickly elevated to the position of surrogate mother to a small Indian child who is given to Taylor in a moment of panic. Little Turtle is three years old, has been physically and sexually abused, and cannot speak aside from guttural sounds. (We find out later on during the course of the novel that her name is April.)
Taylor finally settles in Tucson, AZ, and becomes Lou-Ann's (ironically another young girl who originally settled there from Kentucky) roommate. From that point on, Taylor meets several colorful as well as mournful characters: Mattie, who owns the Jesus is Lord Tire Company; Estevan and Esperanza, illegal aliens from Guatemala who have escaped a revolution; and Edna Poppy and Mrs. Virgie Parsons.
Through a series of adventures and mishaps, Taylor learns that taking care of someone also helps you to grow and learn about yourself. After a very close incident where Taylor was in the process of giving Turtle to Estevan and Esperanza, she reneges and she and Turtle eventually return to settle in Tucso
Barbara Kingslover does a marvelous job using vivid details to move the plot along. While the story begins at a seemingly slow pace, the plot is accelerated throughout the novel until it reaches its fantastic close. Definitely a book to read
on March 7, 2004
It all depends on what kind of books you are interested in reading. In my case I personally was not interested while reading this novel. If you are one, not to be able to follow books if not interested in the reading I wouldn't recommend "The Bean Trees".
The character Marietta Greer whom is called Missy describes in the beginning of the novel how she was raised with out a father. She mentions that she was part Cherokee Indian from her great grandfather who was Cherokee. Missy decides to leave her home town in a beat in up 55' Volkswagen Bug. She decided she would travel west until her car broke down. At one point she ended up in Taylorville where she decided to change her name to Taylor Greer.
Taylor ended up with a child in which she did not know the name. She eventually named the child turtle due to the fact she wouldn't let go of objects. Taylor then entered Tucson Arizona where she had two flat tires and had to stay for a while to come up with the money to fix it. Here in Tucson she ran into another lady named Lou Ann.
Lou Ann had it rough well that's what I believe. About 3 years ago her husband lost his leg and just hung around the house. She would do everything for him. She put him before herself. He eventually left her and she placed an, add for a room mate. Taylor, replied to the, add and she moved in with Lou Ann, that is how they got acquainted.
In chapter 8 Taylor and Lou Ann finally believe they figured out the baby's name. They would randomly say names till the child would turn. Once they named April the child looked at them as it was familiar. So they assumed her name must be April.
Through the rest of the novel there are more characters and relationships that are made and enhanced. There is a couple, Estevan and Eseranza. Estevan is worried about his wife Eseranza because she tried to commit suicide. Through the novel Taylor and Estevan's relationship grow. They start to hang out more and have long conversations. Taylor came to realize that she likes Estevan but she won't say anything to ruin his marriage.
At the end Taylor attempts to get custody of Turtle by becoming the foster parent. She succeeds and lets Lou Ann know, that Turtle is legally Taylor's daughter now. After leaving the court house in Oklahoma she tries to explain to Turtle that they are going home, to Tucson Arizona.
on March 4, 2004
The Bean Trees was a book that surprised me greatly. When I first started reading I felt as though this would not be a book that kept my interest at all. I did not like the laid-back southern Kentucky setting. I felt as though the book would be boring and not have much point to it. Although, I really started to like it after finishing the first two chapters.
The Bean Trees was kind of a compliment to woman; giving you the feeling that if woman came together they could conquer life, and happiness. The main character in the novel, "Taylor" Greer, was one of my favorites. She was smart, opinionated, and independent. She became sick of living her same life so she packed up and headed out to wherever her car broke down. Taylor ended up in Tuscon, Arizona where she was given a baby by a random woman while stopping to eat at a restaurant. Taylor was able to fix her own problems by finding a house, getting a job, making new friends, and raising a child that was not even hers. Instead of giving up with her fears and depressions of being alone and unstable, Taylor rose above and proved nothing could beat her down.
This book gave you the feeling of no matter where you are, you'll always find family. It produced a comforting mood showing how Taylor interacted with new found friends that helped her raise her child. Taylor also became the legal guardian by driving all the way out to Oklahoma to produce adoption papers.
I found that The Bean Trees had great elements of foreshadowing. Throughout the book there are mentionings of a garden in one of Taylor's friend's backyards. Even though they are in Arizona, in the desert, with hardly any trees or plant life many beautifully colored flowers bloomed through the dry desert. This goes to show that even when you are in an ugly place in your life there are always ways to build hope, and life. Just as Taylor was put in a sticky situation, being left a child, she made it work out for the best and learned to love her.
There weren't very many parts of this novel that I didn't enoy except that it seemed a little far fetched. In my current understanding of life I dont see how a girl could venture out on her own leaving everything she had behind, including her family. On top of trying to find somewhere to go, and somehow to survive she was basically forced to raise a small child. She didn't have any connections with anyone so she walked into a town, started conversing with people, and ended up with a job and a roomate in a very short period of time. Unless you found somewhere extremely giving I just don't think that would happen. Although, the theme of this book is the power to succeed in any situation I think this situation requires an incredible individual in real life circumstances.
In conclusion, I think The Bean Trees was a well-written novel, and I would recommend it to readers. As a warning I would say if you're not up for seeing how well things can work out in the worst of situations then this book is not for you.