Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Bean Trees” as Want to Read:
The Bean Trees
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Bean Trees (Greer Family #1)

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  105,335 Ratings  ·  4,942 Reviews
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 Turt ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 6th 2011 by Harper Perennial (first published 1988)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Bean Trees, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Emma Bennett I really enjoyed it as a teen, it was heartfelt and different - and had a lot of American Indian philosophy. Would recommend

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 13, 2007 Larissa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007, usa, southwest
My stepmother was the type of woman who painted the walls in our house eighteen different colors and wore turquoise-encrusted Kokopelli jewelry to show how in tune she was with the local culture. She hung Frida Khalo prints on the bedroom walls and thought that speaking ‘Food Spanish’ to waiters made her nearly fluent. She also compelled my sister and me to read a lot of Tony Hillerman paperbacks and other ‘local literature,’ which I am now almost positive included The Bean Trees. Because after ...more
Another book that I read and loved in high school that I am filing here. I have since read Pigs in Heaven, Animal Dreams, and The Poisonwood Bible.
Jul 11, 2009 Erika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marietta Greer has just completed two miracles of her rural Kentucky upbringing: graduating high school and avoiding pregnancy. To celebrate, she jumps in her ’55 Volkswagen bug and rides West, leaving her job at a Kentucky hospital counting platelets to stay true to her plan “to drive out of Pittman County one day and never look back” (11). On the road, she changes her name to Taylor and finds herself in Tucson, Arizona with a broken down car and a Cherokee baby in her arms.

Taylor is an honest,
I quite liked this, though it's obvious that this was Kingsolver's first novel. The main character, Taylor, is unevenly developed--she's too mutable, changing to fit what Kingsolver wants to say or how she wants to say it at various points in the book--and many of the other characters are types, not people, however finely observed. The plotline involving the refugees from Guatemala in particular was a little too anvilicious. And while it's set very definitely in the American South, the novel did ...more
This is my review and I have to tell you how this book affected ME. It is not a judgment of the book. The book is very, very cute and absolutely never realistic. Such books don't work for me!

The plot is drawn as a sentimental, sweet fairy tale. I don't particularly like mixing sweet fairy tale solutions with serious problems. Here: child abuse, illiteracy, poverty and persecution of immigrants.

Do not pick up this book if you cannot stop yourself from logically or critically considering the thou
Jul 20, 2008 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit, this book really did a number on me. It was recommended to me from a friend, so my expectations were high, but after the first few chapters I was was not getting into it. The narrator's first-person voice was simple, non-descriptive, and frankly just a bit too naive to handle for an entire novel. But the story was interesting, so I kept going.

And the thing is, so does Taylor, the main character. As she charges her way through a haphazard journey to the Southwest, she begins to g
Jan 13, 2009 Stacy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I first read this book several years ago, I was terribly impressed by
1) her writing style, which I really like - I wish I could write like that
2) the interesting plot of a single girl who had avoided teenage pregnancy through her young life only to end up with someone else's baby
3) the relationship she has with her mother, who believes her daughter "hung the moon in the sky" and can absolutely do no wrong. I think it would be wonderful if my daughters came out of their childhoods not pregn
Mar 17, 2010 Laura rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 13, 2009 jess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, audiobook-d, fiction
"But nothing on this earth is guaranteed, when you get right down to it, you know? I've been thinking about that. About how your kids aren't really YOURS, they're just these people that you try to keep an eye on, and hope you'll all grow up someday to like eachother and still be in one piece. What I mean is, everything you get is really just on loan. Does that make sense?"

"Sure,"I said. "Like library books. Sooner or later they've all got to go back into the nightdrop."

I'm trying to get better a
Lyn Elliott
I've been dipping into Flight Behavior at the same time as I've read The Bean Trees, and it's immediately apparent just how far Kingsolver's writing has developed in the years since she wrote this, her first novel.

Her two main female characters are young, uncertain of where they belong in the world, and slowly forge a close friendship, each facing up to difficult circumstances, both poor, both find they can d0 things they didn't think they could because they have built friendships.

The plot is sh
May 14, 2008 Misse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. Even more than Poisonwood Bible- which was good in a different way. This book reminds me of Where the Heart Is. It's a quick read- I think you'll like it.
Black Elephants
Feb 17, 2009 Black Elephants rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver is the older twin of a book I read a year ago called Pigs in Heaven. As the first book of the duo, it chronicles the flight of Taylor Greer from a small, hick lifestyle to a freer life she didn't expect. Basically, Taylor's managed to be educated and not get pregnant when she finally takes her car across the country. But one night in a bar, a mysterious Indian woman gives her a young girl. Suddenly, Taylor finds that she's a single mother with no prospects. W ...more
Oct 13, 2010 Jenna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So many things about this book bugged me.
1. Someone abandons a baby in your car and you don't get ahold of the police.
2. Someone abandons a baby, in your broken down car, you don't have a home or money or a destination in mind, so you decide to adopt baby.
3. You decide to adopt baby, but you spent the next several years being so bewildered by motherhood that you might as well have left baby in the car to be raised by coyotes.
4. Americans in general are directly responsible for the torture of inn
Apr 08, 2016 Wanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: my book club
This is a character driven novel and if you don’t like the characters, I advise you to set it down, walk away, and read something else. If, however, you are willing to spend a while getting to know the two young women featured, I think you will enjoy The Bean Trees. This is not an action novel—it’s an exploration of the lives of two young women from disadvantaged homes and how they sort out their lives.

Who can’t appreciate the desire to get out of Dodge after graduation and see what else the wo
Jun 17, 2008 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: overrated, read-in-08
ok this sucks. boring. terrible writing. overly schmaltzy. i give up.

i give up on barbara kingsolver.

i LOVED "the poisonwood bible." one of my favorites.

i abhorred "animal, vegetable, miracle." i am one of those people that HAS to finish every book i start, but I couldn't get past page 150. i was hoping that it was just her attempt at nonfiction that failed, but now i can't get page 150 of this either.

i'm starting to think "the poisonwood bible" was a fluke.

no more barbara for me. no more.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This story was just a ton of fun! I whipped through it very quickly. Nice flow, and at times hilarious, especially in the first half of the book or so. The Southern expressions cracked me up, and I love the way she poked fun at the 80s New Age culture.

The style is somewhat similar to Elizabeth Berg, but without so much heavy sentiment. (That's not a criticism of Berg. I like her books a lot, too.)

I thought I hated this author because of Poisonwood Bible. I'm delighted to find out she can tell a
Apr 30, 2008 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This Book was pleasant
Things i like:
1.Female relationships, very strong i know Taylor wouldn't have made it without them. I love the relationship between Taylor and Turtle. This book is filled with motherly love.
2. Struggles- Very realistic (for her time) struggles. The book was truthful and lovable. The struggles were difficult because Taylor was dealing with something that she really wanted to avoid which is having a child. Taylor was always running away from every teenage girls practical fate
Jul 29, 2016 Em rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A poignant tale of a young woman from straitened circumstances trying to find her foothold in the world. She leaves her homeplace, Arizona and ventures further out into the desert terrain. On the way, she acquires an abused Indian baby, whom she is forced to take care of. She settles in a small town in a friendly neighborhood, and develops many new friendships.
Rather than the story line, I was enraptured by the descriptions and character sketching.
I place this with honors into 'My kind of Books'
Jan 13, 2010 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well-written novel with a resilient protagonist, beautifully-drawn characters and an inspiring theme of relationships, growth and compassion. It was interesting to me to see this author's progress from this early novel to The Poisonwood Bible, published a few books later, and which is superbly written. In my zeal, I also started Kingsolver's early Animal Dreams, which is thematically somewhat similar but more of a love story, which holds no particular interest for me, but her style is ...more
Sep 07, 2014 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
I'm a big Kingsolver fan, and this is a great story - probably mostly because it's so original. You're not quite sure how to make out the main character for some time, but Kingsolver has a wonderful ironic way of writing that is highly entertaining. Coupled with the originality, it makes for a great read!
Jun 09, 2015 Joyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heartwarming. And much of it took place in my home town, Tucson, which added another layer of enjoyment. But most of all I loved the message of the bean trees and the underlying goodness of people.
In this delightful first novel by Kingsolver, she already has her skills working on all cylinders. The tale portrays a journey of a young woman, Taylor, to escape from a restricted life in a small town in Kentucky. Along the way, an abused 3-year old Cherokee girl is abandoned in her car in Oklahoma, whom she names Turtle, and incorporates into her life at the point her car falls apart in Tuscon, Arizona. With a relatively simple plot and a few characters, she captures well how even poor, uneduc ...more
Dec 26, 2014 Elvan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Bean Trees is an oddly entertaining and endearing little book. At first I was not sure I could stomach a book that read like a cross between Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion and something written by Erma Bombeck but the more I read the more invested I became in this quirky little gem.

Under the humour and one liners generated by store names like Jesus Is Lord Used Tires, there are themes of separation and loss and finding a family of choice when circumstances prohibit going home ag
Mar 16, 2009 Mary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A decent choice for a quick, well written novel to pass a long airplane ride. Although full of confrontations with "hard issues" like immigration, violence, injustice & single motherhood, these themes weren't given more than an passing once-over. Although easy to fall into and even enjoy, the critical edge and depth that made Poisonwood Bible one of my all-time favorite books was absolutely missing here.
Funny, charming, cute as a bug in a rug (who would appreciate that mangled expression more: Taylor, Turtle, or Estevan?), but ultimately, it didn’t pack much of a heavyweight punch. I do know if I ever get a kid, the miracle of Turtle is how I want it to happen.
Missy J
Aug 06, 2016 Missy J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Night-blooming Cereus
The night-blooming Cereus only blooms once a year in the evening and dies the following day.

“The Bean Trees” is Barbara Kingsolver debut novel. She later went on to write the widely-acclaimed “The Poisonwood Bible.”

“The Bean Trees” is a beautiful book, like the flower above. The setting in the desert of Arizona, the honest friendships among women, the constant imagery of birds that reflect the storyline, the kindness, hope and drive that are found in the midst of despair and darkness. I will be
Nov 27, 2008 Jean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"...nothing on this earth's guaranteed, when you get right down to it, you know? I've been thinking about that. About how your kids aren't really yours, they're just these people that you try to keep an eye on, and hope you'll all grow up someday to like each other and still be in one piece. What I mean is, everything you ever get is really just on loan. Does that make sense?" I read this book on Thanksgiving morning (when three of my kids were in other states, and one was out with friends), and ...more
Ned Mozier
A delightful first novel by a writer I intend to read in her entirety. From Kentucky (like my wife), the protagonist flees to the hinters into the desert southwest and there the adventure begins. The homey language of this bright young girl and her accumulated child and newfound friends is innocence reborn, soon tarnished by the realities of human cruelty, remains yet
unvanquished. This girl and her female friends, and unrequited, hopeless love is told in a time without television, computers or
Oct 10, 2008 Michelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I just finished reading this book for the second time. I think I did like it better ten years ago when I taught it to my sophomore English class! That is probably because we did activities with the book along the way, and we were able to discuss the book in more detail.
Although I think the book is a slow read and it takes a LONG time to get into it, there are some good themes to think about. I do like the ending because it's hopeful and you can see a lot of growth in the characters by the end.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • The Milagro Beanfield War
  • Stones for Ibarra
  • The Beet Queen
  • Broken for You
  • A Yellow Raft in Blue Water
  • Charms for the Easy Life
  • Rosie
  • The Highest Tide
  • The Hundred Secret Senses
  • Cowboys Are My Weakness
  • Cavedweller
  • Crossing to Safety
  • Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man
  • Skinny Legs and All
  • My Year of Meats
  • Dancing at the Rascal Fair
  • Turtle Moon
Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist, and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in Africa in her early childhood. Kingsolver earned degrees in Biology at DePauw University and the University of Arizona and worked as a freelance writer before she began writing novels. Her most famous works include The Poisonwood Bible, the tale of a missionary family in the Congo, ...more
More about Barbara Kingsolver...

Other Books in the Series

Greer Family (2 books)
  • Pigs in Heaven

Share This Book

“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, 'There now, hang on, you'll get over it.' Sadness is more or less like a head cold- with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.” 1966 likes
“In a world as wrong as this one, all we can do is make things as right as we can.” 171 likes
More quotes…