Book Review: “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver

The bean trees

Fiction/Literature/246 pages

I promoted Barbara Kingsolver to my Top 10 Favorite Authors List (a post for another time) after reading this book. This was her debut novel back in 1988 and since then has written prolifically. I recently learned this book is now required school reading—which makes some sense, considering that it touches on the political hot topic of illegal immigration—and I was intrigued.

Putting aside all of my personal political beliefs and principles, this story energized a part of my soul where empathy, positivity, tolerance, and kindness desperately needed to be activated.

It is a beautiful story where love, dermination, hope and strength collide in a massive explosion of goodness, smack dab in the middle of a desert teeming with human depravity and hopelessness. Is it the story of Taylor Greer, a woman raised poor in rural Kentucky, who made it a goal of hers to one day get away. So, she purchases a 1955 Volkswagen and starts driving west. By the time she arrives in Tucson, Arizona (a refugee sancutary for Central Americans), Taylor has “inherited” a 3-year-old American Indian girl she names “Turtle,” and has pulled in to an auto repair shop called Jesus Is Lord Used Tires. The story then unfolds as Taylor meets more residents and crashes head first into the sobering reality of the human condition and its plights.

This is a tough, moving, tendery and gritty novel that will leave you hopeful because of the story’s optimism—-“…even bad luck brings good things,” (p. 144); and gives you the realization that there is still so much life in the midst of a desert, little “every day miracles” (p. 170).

This is the first Barbara Kingsolver book I have ever read, and I feel like I have missed out on a part of my life by having not “discovered” her any sooner. She writes so cleverly that I felt as if I could phone her one day and hang out like old friends so she can shower me with her witty and comical one-liners. She infused Taylor’s character with these hilarties, that I couldn’t help but want to be best friends with a woman who only exists inside Kingsolver’s genius of a head.

I really didn’t want the story to end…and it doesn’t. Kingsolver’s sequel to this novel is available. “Pigs in Heaven” starts where this story ends. I am prepared to be wow’d again.


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