The Bean Trees

Thoughts tbtbybk by Barbara Kingsolver, HarperPaperbacks 1998 (orig 1988), 312 pages

Challenge: What’s in a Name 9 wian2016
Genre: Young Adult
Type/Source: Mass Market Paperback / unknown
 Why I read this now: I wanted a small book to take on my travels.

MOTIVATION for READING: This book was on the 2014 list of recommended summer reading for the high school I subbed for in Massachusetts.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: A young girl who yearns to escape her confining small town in Kentucky takes off for grand adventures. The least of which is NOT that she is handed a baby somewhere in Oklahoma on her way to who-knows-where; so she just mosies on down the road with little thought about it whatsoever… Seriously, the more I reflect on her nonchalance about being just handed a baby and her taking off with zero thought or consideration of consequence exasperates me.

For a much more detailed synopsis and thoughtful review, read this by BooksPlease blog.

WHAT’s GOOD: Kingsolver is not without writing talent. She can probably write anything and make it believable. I really did enjoy the main character and many of the good-hearted people she has the fortune to meet on her journey.

What’s NOT so good: Keeping in mind that this is set in the 80’s – and likely the early 80s, it is just odd/difficult to think that the not-so-distant past really IS that far away and yet so relatable. Pay phones, cars that won’t start unless you pop the clutch, walking into a job at a hospital and handling blood on day one. Really?! It was discombobulating. 

FINAL THOUGHTS: Kingsolver is also not shy about cleverly ranting about immigration policies and she skillfully grounds the story in the history of the time. The theme was all about creating your own family and being kind.

If I had known that the bean trees were really a reference to Wisteria, I probably would have read it sooner.


RATING: Three slices of pie.

“The night before, she’d listened to the forecast and picked a mop bucket full of hard little marbles off the tomato vines, and this morning she had green-tomato pies baking upstairs. I know this sounds like something you’d no more want to eat than a mud-and-Junebug pie some kid would whip up, but it honestly smelled delicious.”

IMG_4777(This is a fried green tomato pimento cheese pie with a chocolate cream pie chaser.)


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16 thoughts on “The Bean Trees

  1. I read this book before I had kids and loved it, especially the way Lou Ann is so over-the-top anxious about taking care of her baby. My friend and I still quote a line from that book every time we serve potato salad–“the only really safe way to eat potato salad is with your head in the refrigerator.”

  2. I read this book and I was so nuts in love with it that I called up Barbara Kingsolver. I wrote a blog post awhile back about her gracious manner and my cringe worthy younger self.

  3. I think I would enjoy Kingsolver more if I didn’t feel like I was being bludgeoned by her ideology while reading her books. And I agree with her!

  4. aartichapati

    It’s true Kingsolver can be pretty heavy-handed with her beliefs. At least, she was in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I don’t know that I have read anything else by her…

  5. I didn’t know this book was YA! Huh.
    I really liked The Poisonwood Bible, but not as much The Prodigal Summer. Have you read any of her others?
    Love those pies!!

  6. I read this after being completely blown away by The Poisonwood Bible, and it wasn’t quite the same. (Alas, alas.) Barbara Kingsolver is definitely a talented writer, but none of her books ever got me with the combination of setting and writing and character the way Poisonwood Bible did.

  7. I read this a long time ago and honestly hardly remember what happened in it… I liked it enough that I read more by her, but it didn’t knock my socks off.

  8. I had to run to my shelves to see if I own this one but I don’t. I own Animal Dreams instead. And now I think maybe I used to own Pigs in Heaven but ditched it because it was the second in this series. Silly Trish. I tend to collect Kingsolver books even though I’ve only read The Poisonwood Bible.

    Love wisteria–wish we had more of it here!

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