Renee Porter's Reviews > Pigs in Heaven

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
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Jun 28, 08

Read in January, 2001

PIGS IN HEAVEN is the sequel to Barbara Kingsolver's book THE BEAN TREES. The novel continues the story of the Cherokee child named "Turtle" and her adoptive mother Taylor Greer. In this sequel, we find Turtle and Taylor living together in Tucson along with Taylor's boyfriend, a life that is not quite what would be called the most perfect of environments. They live in poverty, barely making ends meet. Although Taylor does her best, her income is limited, but she gives Turtle a lot of love, and along with her boyfriend, Turtle has a new family. Turtle seems happy, and after years of being mute due to a history of abuse, she's learned to talk, and all seems to be going well.

Unfortunately, Cherokee attorney Annawake Fourkiller accidentally discovers the existence of 6-year-old Turtle, and learns that Taylor had illegally adopted Turtle outside the Cherokee nation. Annawake is ready to rectify this problem. As far as she's concerned, Turtle needs to be raised by the Cherokee. Taylor, however, does not see this, and does what she can to protect her child.

Turtle and Taylor are now on the run, fleeing from their home in Tucson and leaving the boyfriend behind. They live from motel room to motel room, eating what they can afford. It gets to a point where Taylor does not know what to do next, in fear that she and Turtle will be discovered and eventually Turtle will be taken away from her. Yet, she wonders if what she is doing to Turtle is the right thing to do. When Alice Greer, Taylor's mother, gets involved, the story takes a surprising turn, and soon Turtle's biological family gets involved as well. I was glued to the book, wanting to know whether Taylor gets to keep Turtle, or is told to hand over the child to the Cherokee Nation.

Many important issues are brought up in PIGS IN HEAVEN. Should a child of American Indian heritage be allowed to live away from his or her tribe? Should the child be allowed to be raised among the white people, never knowing his true heritage? Turtle was completely happy with Taylor, and she did not know any other mother or life. The issue of whether it was a moral crime to separate the two is a big theme, with a fitting conclusion at the end of the story.

I really enjoyed this book, having already read THE BEAN TREES, which I loved as much as this one. Both stories center on the welfare of Turtle, an endearing little Indian girl that will capture your heart. However, after reading PIGS IN HEAVEN, I doubted that what Taylor did was right. It actually gave me a different perspective on the first book.

The two books should be read in sequence, but reading one or the other will not detract from the enjoyment of either
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