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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, ...
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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.
Available for the first time in mass-market, this edition of Barbara Kingsolver's bestselling novel, The Bean Trees, will be in stores everywhere in September. With two different but equally handsome covers, this book is a fine addition to your Kingsolver library.
A "warmhearted and highly entertaining first novel...." --Kirkus Reviews
I have been afraid of putting air in a tire ever since I saw a tractor tire blow up and throw Newt Hardbine's father over the top of the Standard Oil sign. I'm not lying. He got stuck up there. About nineteen people congregated during the time it took for Norman Strick to walk up to the Courthouse and blow the whistle for the volunteer fire department. They eventually did come with the ladder and haul him down, and he wasn't dead but lost his hearing and in many other ways was never the same afterward. They said he overfilled the tire. Newt Hardbine was not my friend, he was just one of the big boys who had failed every grade at least once and so was practically going on twenty in the sixth grade, sitting in the back and flicking little wads of chewed paper into my hair. But the day I saw his daddy up there like some old overalls slung over a fence, I had this feeling about what Newt's whole life was going to amount to, and I felt sorry for him. Before that exact moment I don't believe I had given much thought to the future.
My mama said the Hardbines had kids just about as fast as they could fall down the well and drown. This must not have been entirely true, since they were abundant in Pittman County and many survived to adulthood. But that was the general idea.
Which is not to say that we, me and Mama, were any better than Hardbines or had a dime to our name. If you were to look at the two of us, myself and Newt side by side in the sixth grade, you could have pegged us for brother and sister. And for all I ever knew of my own daddy I can't say we weren't,except for Mama swearing up and down that he was nobody I knew and was long gone besides. But we were cut out of basically the same mud, I suppose,just two more dirty-kneed kids scrapping to beat hell and trying to land on our feet. You couldn't have said, anyway, which one would stay right where he was, and which would be the one to get away.
Missy was what everyone called me, not that it was my name, but because when I was three supposedly I stamped my foot and told my own mother not to call me Marietta but Miss Marietta, as I had to call all the people including children in the houses where she worked Miss this or Mister that, and so she did from that day forward. Miss Marietta and later on just Missy.
The thing you have to understand is, it was just like Mama to do that. When I was just the littlest kid I would go pond fishing of a Sunday and bring home the boniest mess of blue-gills and maybe a bass the size of your thumb,and the way Mama would carry on you would think I'd caught the famous big lunker in Shep's Lake that old men were always chewing their tobacco and thinking about. "That's my big girl bringing home the bacon,"she would say, and cook those things and serve them up like Thanksgiving for the two of us.
I loved fishing those old mud-bottomed ponds. Partly because she would be proud of whatever I dragged out, but also I just loved sitting still. You could smell leaves rotting into the cool mud and watch the Jesus bugs walk on the water, their four little feet making dents in the surface but never falling through. And sometimes you'd see the big ones, the ones nobody was ever going to hook, slipping away under the water like dark-brown dreams.
By the time I was in high school and got my first job and all the rest,including the whole awful story about Newt Hardbine which I am about to tell you, he was of course not in school anymore. He was setting tobacco alongside his half-crippled daddy and by that time had gotten a girl in trouble, too, so he was married. It was Jolene Shanks and everybody was a little surprised at her, or anyway pretended to be, but not at him. Nobody expected any better of a Hardbine.
But I stayed in school. I was not the smartest or even particularly outstanding but I was there and staying out of trouble and I intended to finish. This is not to say that I was unfamiliar with the back seat of a Chevrolet. I knew the scenery of Greenup Road, which we called Steam-It-Up Road, and I knew what a pecker looked like, and none of these sights had so far inspired me to get hogtied to a future as a tobacco farmer's wife. Mama always said barefoot and pregnant was not my style. She knew.
It was in this frame of mind that I made it to my last year of high school without event. Believe me in those days the girls were dropping by the wayside like seeds off a poppyseed bun and you learned to look at every day as a prize. You'd made it that far. By senior year there were maybe two boys to every one of us, and we believed it was our special reward when we got this particular science teacher by the name of Mr. Hughes Walter.
Copyright © 1988 by Barbara Kingsolver.
The wisteria vines on their own would just barely get by is how I explained it to Turtle, but put them together with rhizobia and they make miracles.Plot Summary
-Taylor Greer in The Bean Trees
Marietta Greer spent her childhood in rural Kentucky determined to do two things: avoid getting pregnant and escape rural Kentucky. At the start of the novel, she has headed west in a beat-up '55 Volkswagon, changing her name to "Taylor" when her car runs out of gas in Taylorville, Illinois. By the time two tires give way in Tucson she has with her a stunned, silent three-year-old Cherokee girl who was, literally, dropped into her arms one night. She has named the child Turtle, for her strong, snapping-turtle-like grip. In Tucson Taylor finds friendship and support in Lou Ann Ruiz, a fellow Kentuckian and single mother, with whom she and Turtle share a house. Her newfound community also includes Mattie, who runs a safe house for political refugees in the upstairs rooms above her auto repair shop. The novel's theme of fear, flight, homelessness, and finding sanctuary within a community are present in Taylor's struggle to find a place where she belongs, and the more urgent plight of two Central American refugees, Estevan and Esperanza. These fellow travelers help one another create new lives and redefine the meanings of home and family.
Kingsolver on The Bean Trees
"I always think of a first novel as something like this big old purse you've been carrying around your whole life, throwing in ideas, characters, and all the things that have ever struck you as terribly important. One day,for whatever reason, you just have to dump that big purse out and there lies this pile of junk. You start picking through it, and assembling it into what you hope will be a statement of your life's great themes. That's how it was for me. It probably wasn't until midway through the writing that I had a grasp of the central question: What are the many ways, sometimes hidden and underground ways, that people help themselves and each other survive hard times?"
Topics for Discussion:
1. The Bean Trees deals with the theme of being an outsider. In what ways are various characters outsiders? What does this suggest about what it takes to be an insider? How does feeling like an outsider affect one's life?
2. How and why do the characters change, especially Lou Ann, Taylor, and Turtle?
3. In many ways, the novel is "the education of Taylor Greer." What does she learn about human suffering? about love?
Posted November 6, 2009
I admit, I am no great fan of modern American literature. Apart from Ernest Hemingway, Philip Roth, and Raymond Carver, I hardly touch the stuff. I prefer a foreign setting, not to mention a different genre. And with that bias, I approached Barbara Kingsolver at long last, and found The Bean Trees to be remarkably compelling. The story of Taylor Greer, on a journey across the country, heading nowhere in particular, simply seeking to escape her dreary life. Only to be handed a life she could not have expected when a baby is thrust into her car and left in her care. Kingsolver has created characters who seem quite far from me, lives and experiences distinct from my own. Yet somehow she manages to make me care about these people. She can weave a tale around a superficially simplistic setting, a deceptively banal event - and inject it with such meaning, such feeling. Cheers to you, Ms. Kingsolver. I look forward to reading more of your works.
28 out of 30 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 16, 2010
I was not hooked from the begining. But in a few brief turns of the pages the characters came to life. Bean Trees is a bit quirky. The characters are strange and the locations even stranger but the reader begins to care about the characters. Taylor seems to be floating thru life accepting whatever comes to her but as the story progresses she finds herself and her voice. The relation with LouAnn deepens and LouAnn deepens as a person. The caring of Mattie for the people you know and those you don't is unique. And the relation between Esteven and Esperanza to each other and Mattie and Taylor and Turtle is beautiful and deep.
This is not the best book I have ever read but it is worth reading from beginning to end.
13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 19, 2010
I really enjoyed this book. I was hooked on the characters and loved the way she described the different scenarios. I have passed this on to my daughter and she is enjoying it.
12 out of 16 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 10, 2006
Unfortunately, this book was required reading for my freshman year English class. At that time, I was interested in classics, and books with great lessons and symbols for everyday life. After reading and enjoying many books with boring names I was actually excited to read The Bean Trees. Having read To Kill a Mockingbird multiple times, I was looking for another great book. When I rented The Bean Trees from the library, I started reading immediately, looking for symbols and lessons comprable to To Kill a Mockingbird. What I got was a pointless story where the greatest conflicts include choosing to have an affair with a man, and getting papers for a little girl. The only lessons this book teaches you are that euthanasia should be used, abortion should be used, and that Child Services is evil. Seriously, if you are an average Conservative, do not read this book, unless you are unfortunate enough to be assigned it.
12 out of 30 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 28, 2011
The Bean Trees is a heartwarming book about a girl from a small town, Taylor, and her journey as she tries to avoid getting pregnant and escape her small town. Taylor meets many people such as Mattie who works at a tire shop and is motherly towards her. She also meets a young abused girl named Turtle and even though she had avoided pregnancy,took care of her. Mattie provides a save house for illegal immigrants, and Taylor gets very attached to them as well. I really enjoyed this book because it shows how hard it is to be a woman. All throughout the story womens' struggles are portrayed and it inspired me. I also liked how it showed many great relationships were built, and you get to know the characters.I didn't like how the book became slow at parts, and it was sad to hear the horrible encounters Turtle had gone through. I would recommend this book to mainly women who are interested in an inspiring story about real life situations. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I'm incredibly glad I read it!
7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I have read several of Barabara Kinsolver's books and was anxious to get into "The Bean Trees". I initially found it difficult to enjoy. I considered not finishing it, but came back to it and am very glad that I did. The imagery of her writing and the detail that she creates are what got me through - and it was definately worth the effort. It is one of those books with the kind of characters that you will continue to think about long after you have put the book back on your shelf (or archived it on your Nook!)
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 6, 2011
Lot of the same themes as Poisonwood Bible, about family, culture, morality, Did not affect me in the deep way Poisonwood Bible did, but I still enjoyed the book. Also a quick, easy read-can accomplish in a weekend,
5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 13, 2005
For some reason we were made to read this book for english, and it is a horrible example of how books should be written. It was written with absolutly no climax, un needed characters, and parts that were incredible unrealistic, yet teachers think that it teaches us somthing. The only thing this book tries to teach us is that all males are bad, and that illegal immigrants should be aided in their quest to illegally stay in the country. One of the biggest characters lou ann gets 2 or 3 chapters about just her life, only to be hacked out of the story, never to be heard from again. There are several other characters that could have been ommited completely, and the basic, boring, plot wouldnt have changed at all. The 'challenges' the characters faced in the book were all brought upon by themselves. At any time taylor could have refused to take care of turtle, or refused to help the illegal immigrants, or moved back to pittman county. Lou ann could have stopped associating with angel and she would have been a lot better off, but she doesnt, so i have no sympathy for her. FINAL WORD: This is a completely horrible book that should not be read by anyone, i am insulted that this was printed, as it is a disgrace to those who work hard, and publish books with actual substance. The whole thing is full of blatent disregard for the real world and those who inhabit it, right down to the title, because beans grow on plants.
5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 3, 2008
The bean trees was a very interesting story to read to hear about the girls life story and where all she travled in her life trying to get out of the state she is in Kentucky. She ends up with a child that a women just left in her car which was somehthing that was put on her shoulders as to moving away from things and getting away of any stress. I would recomined this book to those who are wanting to move out of state and search for a new life.
4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 30, 2011
I thought this book was a very interesting read. It was not my favorite but i would definitely read this book again amd tell my friends about this book. I had to read this book for my english class and i think it was a good choice for a summer reading assignment.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 18, 2003
I hated this book. If I could I would give it no stars. No one cares about Taylors messed up life. I think Barbara Kingsolver wrote about her fantasy when Turtle was 'hurt'. I am probably going to burn the book and tell my English teacher to think about having it removed from the required list. This book is junk!
3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 26, 2012
Love Barbara Kingsolver's beautiful prose. I read this after my high schooler read this for required reading and loved it. I got plenty of great insight by following the analysis that he and his classmates were writing. A beautiful and moving story of the power of women and friendship!
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 17, 2011
Although possibly not as exciting as "The Poisonwood Bible," I still found myself captivated by this book. The cast of characters which Kingsolver has created in this novel feel so real you can imagine yourself meeting them at the grocery store or even becoming friends. Each character is given a unique identity and a set of personal battles which make them both interesting and relatable. Although not all of us have adopted a stranger's child as the main character of this book does and not all of us are illegal immigrants as two of the supporting characters are, I think we have all experienced struggles with personal identity and the capricious nature of life.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 12, 2005
Posted September 4, 2013
I unfortanatly got this assigned to me as a 9th grade summer reading project. I found this book very inapropriate, boring, and had a very libral basis to the book. For some reason the author kept making "male reproduction organ" refrences, and included other inapropriate subjects like porn shops and afairs. The only lessons in this book are that illegal imigrants should be let in to this country and child servises are evil. DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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