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The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

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Image of The Bean Trees: A Novel (P.S.)
Much to my surprise, this 20-year-old novel by Barbara Kingsolver is being checked out in droves around Baltimore.

It turns out a subplot in The Bean Trees: A Novel (P.S.) revolves around illegal immigrants in Arizona seeking asylum. So you know, there's that eerily prescient aspect. But I also suspect that The Bean Trees: A Novel (P.S.) pops up on a fair amount of summer reading lists or is being picked up by fans of Kingsolver's later works, such as Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life or The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel .

Sadly, the popularity of The Bean Trees: A Novel (P.S.) doesn't translate into literary transcendence. It starts off promising, with heroine Taylor Greer fleeing Kentucky and picking up an abused and abandoned Native American child named Turtle on her way. The duo's arrival in Tucson finds their lives intersecting with Guatemalan immigrants named Estevan and Esperanza, a soon-to-be divorcee and new mother named Lou Ann, and tire shop/asylum provider Mattie.

That's when the book starts to drift. It's tedious to witness the doomed romance between Estevan and Taylor, dull to see Lou Ann struggle over whether to take back her good-for-nothing husband, and there's never much of a doubt that Taylor will hold onto Turtle. As Kingsolver's first novel, it's an okay debut, but nothing with the substance or thrill of her later works. I'm interested to see what people thought of the sequel to The Bean Trees: A Novel (P.S.) called Pigs in Heaven .

If you're looking for a novel to share with a young adult with the themes of family, immigration, and surviving abuse, I'd be more inclined to recommend The Kite Runner .

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