This isn’t the first time I’ve read this book, but it might as well have been. It was my first Kingsolver, read at the fervent recommendation of my mother. Over the years, the memory of the book’s specifics faded, but the general feeling that I had loved both the story and characters, and that it had earned a place among my all-time favourites remained.
So when I was looking for a book to read that would hook me back into reading life (as you can tell, it’s been a while since I’ve been lost in a good book), I figured what could be better than a book I know I’m going to love? And love it I did. So much that I devoured it in just a few days, and immediately picked up its successor when I’d finished.
This is the story of Taylor Greer, who escaped from her childhood home in small town Kentucky as soon as she had a car to do it in. Taylor’s aim was to escape the inevitable teen pregnancy and subsequent unhappy marriage that seemed to be the lot in life of every local girl her age. So she sets out in a battered VW bug to find what is waiting for her beyond the town’s borders – and to avoid domestic drudgery at all costs.
She makes it as far as Okalahoma, where her car breaks down and by the time she pulls out onto the road again, she’s plus one abandoned Cherokee baby.
The book from that point on is all about discovering that family is not necessarily those who are related to you by blood, and that sometimes the very last thing you think you want turns out to be exactly what you need.
I love the characters in this book – it is packed with resilient women, people who have been dealt harsh hands and found a way to survive, and people I’d honestly love to adopt into my own family. This book also reminded me of just what a wonderful writer Kingsolver is. The book is full of small details that seem at first just to be scene-setting, but later get drawn into the story as metaphors. It’s one of those books that feels like every possible loose end gets neatly tied, so by the time you have finished the entire book it feels like a delicately and intricately woven tapestry.
This book more than held up to my vague memories and has retained its place in my top ten books of all time. It also had a new impact on me, since I recently became a mom and can now relate to Taylor’s experiences with new insight. It’s a heartwarming and inspiring book, one that will leave you feeling like the world is a little more magical than it felt before you started.
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. – Goodreads
Book Title: The Bean Trees
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Series: Yes – Greer Family #1
Published By: Harper Perennial
Released: May 7, 2013 (originally released 1988)
Genre: Fiction, Diverse, Family, Character-Driven
Date Read: May 13-16, 2017