Monday, April 19, 2010

The Bean Trees

by Barbara Kingsolver

"The Poisonwood Bible" and "Prodigal Summer" are both excellent books by Barbara Kingsolver. She is a writer with a wonderful voice, instilling personality and life into all of her characters. "The Bean Trees" was no different; her portrayal of Taylor Greer was captivating.

Being a relatively short novel in the voice of a country girl from Tennessee, it was a quick and easy read. Taylor's voice was realistic and her concern about raising Turtle almost palpable. Her smart remarks kept the lightness of the novel, even through the dark, emotional chapters. Everyone else, Lou Ann, Mattie, Estevan, Virgie, etc, each had their own little quirks that prevented the novel from drowning in seriousness.

The back cover is a bit misleading, though, I must say. I expected that once Taylor got to Tucson, she'd be placed in the middle of danger, helping out with refugees and hiding from the law. That's not exactly what happened, and though I still enjoyed the book, it was a bit of a let-down that she was more on the edge of the danger instead of in the midst. Mattie, the woman in charge of the refugees, didn't even ever directly tell Taylor what was going on in the back of her tire shop.

One of the things I absolutely loved about this book, and her other books as well, was that she could take a description and be so creative with it. Instead of saying "the trees are green", she can take that simple sentence and paint a picture in your head using the character's own words. Taylor would use adages that her mother would say or truisms from Tennessee to describe the scene before her. It really helped to connect to the character and disassociate her from the author.

There was a bit of an amateur quality about this book, though I can't really judge too much since I don't even have one novel published, but you can tell that she wrote this during her early writing period. "Poisonwood" and "Prodigal" are better and more thought-provoking, but don't discount "The Bean Trees" because of it. It's still a worthy contender.

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