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The Bean Trees

The Bean Trees

4.1 318
by Barbara Kingsolver

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Barbara Kingsolver's 1988 debut novel is a classic workof American fiction. Now a standard in college literature classes across thenation, and a book that appears in translation across the globe, The BeanTrees is not only a literary masterpiece but a popular triumph—anarrative that readers worldwide have taken into their hearts. The Los Angeles


Barbara Kingsolver's 1988 debut novel is a classic workof American fiction. Now a standard in college literature classes across thenation, and a book that appears in translation across the globe, The BeanTrees is not only a literary masterpiece but a popular triumph—anarrative that readers worldwide have taken into their hearts. The Los Angeles Times calls The Bean Trees “the work of a visionary. . . . It leaves you open-mouthed and smiling.”

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
As clear as air. It is the southern novel taken west, its colors as translucent and polished as one of those slices of rose agate from a desert shop.
Los Angeles Times
The Bean Trees is the work of a visionary.... It leaves you open-mouthed and smiling.
San Francisco Chronicle
So wry and wise we wish it would never end....The chatty, down-home audacity of Barbara Kingsolver's remarkable first novel hooks us on the first page.
Philadelphia Inquirer
Loving and expansive...idealistic and exhilarating.
A major new talent. From the very first page, Kingsolver's characters tug at the heart and soul.
An astonishing literary debut....For a deep breath of fresh air, spend some time in the neighborhood of The Bean Trees.
This is the story of a lovable, resourceful 'instant mother,' one who speaks, acts and learns for herself, becoming an inspiration for us all.
New Yorker
A lively first novel...an easy book to enjoy.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.84(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

The One to Get Away

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.

What People are Saying About This

Anne Rivers Siddons
An extraordinary good novel, tough and tender and gritty and moving.

Meet 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.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
April 8, 1955
Place of Birth:
Annapolis, Maryland
B.A., DePauw University, 1977; M.S., University of Arizona, 1981

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The Bean Trees 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 318 reviews.
GeorgeEllington More than 1 year ago
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.
chloesmomst More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Reader12TD More than 1 year ago
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!)
CathyFitzgerald More than 1 year ago
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,
Lauren Kirchner More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Georgie62 More than 1 year ago
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!
AudreyBoBaudrey More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was Kingsolver's first novel and it's very well written. Makes you want to read it in one sitting. Charming story. OK for middle school and up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lacked character development but overall an easy, entertaining read.
2ufgators More than 1 year ago
A story of friendship, hardship, and new beginnings......definately a win from Kingsolver! Her stories of transformation always keep me coming back........Who wouln't love Turtle?!
krspdx More than 1 year ago
I read this book with my niece. This was assignment for her, freshman year high school. I enjoyed it and thought it was thought provoking touching. I love the Main Character and thought she had great spirit and an independent women- A good lesson for young women.....
Anonymous 5 months ago
Oops i forgot)) she took off her bra releasing her small firm tit<_>s..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Starting as a strong-willed young Kentucky girl who embraces her freedom, Marietta Greer starts a journey to change her life. She decides to drive west. Unsure of exactly where she is going, she just drives. She changes her name (something many of us wish we could do) to Taylor to start a new image for herself. As Taylor leaves Oklahoma after her broken car is fixed, a distressed Cherokee woman places a baby in Taylor’s car. As a turning point in her life, the baby she names Turtle, creates intense problems with less than simple resolutions. We also meet a character who lives in Arizona. Lou Ann Ruiz is a woman with a struggling marriage she is trying to fix. Due to a housing ad Lou Ann has in the paper and Taylor’s driving journey ending in Arizona with two flat tires, the two end up living together and having many experiences. From helping illegals, to dealing with child protective services, the two create an interesting life that works for them. As Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel, The Bean Trees is an incredible read. It feels as random and unexpected as real life. The Bean Trees is a story of uncertainty that grips you and forces you to find out what happens next. The story tackles many “touchy” issues like illegal immigration, rape and divorce. As Taylor, Turtle and Lou Ann overcome their trials you can’t help but to feel inspired to overcome your own trials.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great writing, good story, fantastic characters. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was hard to get into in the beginning, but towards the end i wanted to keep reading. The book was very slow and hard to understand the meaning. I loved the ending because there was a lot going on, and there was never a dull moment. I read it last year as my summer reading book. I didnt quite understand it last year, i read it again this year, and i understood it much better. It's always good to read a book that you dont understand more than once, so you can understand the meaning.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book. My class was assigned this book for a Reader's Theater project. I'm really having fun doing it. I recommend this book for everyone. Some topics may be controversial for overbearing parents, but I believe that this a great book that teaches students about the unpredictability of life.
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