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The Beans of Egypt, Maine

(Egypt, Maine #1)

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  3,160 ratings  ·  325 reviews
There are families like the Beans all over America. They live on the wrong side of town in mobile homes strung with Christmas lights all year around. The women are often pregnant, the men drunk and just out of jail, and the children too numerous to count. In the 'Beans of Egypt', Maine, we meet the God-fearing Earlene Pomerleau and experience her obsession for the whole sw ...more
Paperback, 238 pages
Published July 1st 1986 by Grand Central Publishing (first published October 1st 1985)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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Jul 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Paris Hilton
The Bean family of the title are a motley group who bum and breed in Maine’s bucolic underbelly. They’re poor -- really poor -- but Carolyn Chute doesn’t condemn them or even keep them at an ironic distance. She celebrates them. “If it runs, a Bean will shoot it!” she writes. “If it falls, a Bean will eat it!”

“[My books] have made the professional-class people in New York very mad because they said things in some of the reviews like, ‘She sounds like she’s proud to be working class. She doesn’t
Paul Bryant
Sep 30, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Remember those frightening freaky hillbillies in Deliverance? (You have to have seen Deliverance. There's no ifs or buts.) Remember those immortal lines

He got a real pretty mouth ain't he? ... You gonna do some prayin' for me, boy. And you better pray good.

Spoken to Jon Voight, who indeed had a real pretty mouth . Who really didn't want to commence to the kind of praying that was being indicated. Not at all.

Well, this here slim novel is about the family whence came those hillbillies. Or okay,
Nov 17, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
I’d love to tell you what this book was about, but I’m afraid it wasn’t about very much for me. There is a lot of blood, gore, fighting, and mistreatment. There are a lot of sexual encounters (thankfully not too graphically depicted) and a lot of references to sexual encounters that have already taken place and produced innumerable sad and unkempt children. There is squalor and poverty and lack of education, and men who have a too easy affinity for guns.

For me, it is fine to expose this way of l

A few pages into this novel, I was reminded of the brilliant beginning of Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, "But some people can't tell where it hurts. They can't calm down. They can't ever stop howling."

The Beans in this story are a lot like actual beans. . . hard, small, and prone to flatulence. And, the Beans can't ever stop HOWLING.

Within this extended family, I found some of the most unpleasant characters I've ever encountered in literature. Believe me, you don't want to BE these peopl
Jun 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carolyn Chute truly captures rural poverty in this enlightening, often funny, yet depressing work. I came away from this feeling that all our social programs and safety nets just can't compete with the effects of genetic inbreeding and multigenerational poverty. The dullness and hopelessness of their lives is staggeringly painful to read. One only needs to travel to remote areas here in the US to realize there is an entire culture we know very little about. This is very well-written and recommen ...more
Jan 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
After reading Merry Men, I needed to devour Carolyn Chute's words with an urgency normally reserved for the need to intake oxygen. This novel is generally considered to be her masterpiece- it lacks the scope of Merry Men, which at first I had a hard time to reconcile, since it was the scope which really married my heart to her writing- but after I got into it, I became hooked. This is a far bleaker, though a bit funnier, book. If your background is far removed from rural poverty, (or perhaps urb ...more
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
My interest in Caryolyn Chute was piqued by a recent article in the New York Times. The photo alone was enough to get my attention--Chute and her husband decked out in mismatched flannel, bearing arms. Chute has been described as the voice of the rural poor, and according to the Times article, she practices what she preaches. Her home in Maine is unheated and without an indoor toilet. Oh, and she belongs to a militia. "The Beans of Egypt, Maine" was a fascinating read. While the characters engag ...more
Sharon Honeycutt
Master class on characterization

I'm editing/updating my review after reading a few others. Many people looked negatively at this story because it lacks a plot and it's depressing. If you only like books with happy endings, or books with a definite story line, you will likely not enjoy this book.

However, if you are interested in reading a book that is very well written when it comes to characterization, you should enjoy this book for that reason. It's not easy to do, to bring characters to life
Nov 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Annette by: article in the Bangor Daily News
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 22, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: disliked
I found this story to be perfectly awful. I have no issue with the author writing about living conditions in remote, economically stressed communities, but I question why the author wrote this story, for it appears to me that she despises the characters. None was interesting. Nothing happened in the story which changed the characters. Nothing was learned.

And I agree completely with the residents of the real Egypt, Maine, who railed against her depiction of characters with no redeeming qualities
Margo Reheis
Utterly true depiction of the grinding poverty to be found in the back woods of Maine. Having been born and raised in Maine in the 40's, growing up, I'd never seen this strata of society. Maine's lifestyle, I thought, was gritty, raw and cold, especially on the coast; though, you'll not find the Beans on the coast-- instead, they're tucked back in the woods, in the shadows where the snow barely melts in summer.

Until reading this stunning book of Carolyn's when first published, I had never been
Melissa McCauley
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Slowly rotting mobile homes. A yard full of broken down machinery being sold for parts. The stench of old cigarettes and motor oil. Illegal hunting out of season. Gum disease. Jail time. Illiteracy. Unwanted pregnancies. Developmental problems. Physical and mental abuse. Children who go to bed hungry. Praise Jesus!

This book is a brutally honest depiction of grinding rural poverty presented in a matter-of-fact voice. If you want a hopeful story with plot resolution, look elsewhere. This book does
Jan 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
This was the perfect antidote to my last Oates' read. Chute makes her characteres believable and, for the most part, sympathetic. Even the worst of them is understandable, even if repellent. Her depiction of the effects of grinding poverty is excellent. One gets the feeling that Chute has met and lived with these people, rather than looked at them as rather nasty fodder for her books. I'd recommend this to anyone over the age of 16 or so. Wickedly funny in parts.
Maureen Flatley
May 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book was a revelation when I read it in my first book club shortly after it was written. Lo these many years later, Chute's voice remains clear in my mind. A glimpse at a world alive in America....and that few of us see or understand. This is as relevant and interesting today as it was years ago.
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book...mostly cause I really liked the name...I really wanted to...but I couldn't stop watching cupcake wars for three months straight instead of finishing a book that should have taken one week...and cupcake wars let me tell you gets PRETTY boring after the first 5000 episodes have the exact same plot characters flavors and decorations on every gd cupcake
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My friend Carlie (Hi Carlie!), recommended this book way back when I started this blog not long after she recommended The Hunger Games and I picked up a copy back in December 2012. I don’t know why it took so long for me to get around to it, but it did. I should’ve known better based on how much I enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up , another of her discoveries.

This book really should be mentioned in the same breath of books like The Color Purple and
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A friend told me why this book was important and I have read a lot of reviews since finishing it, grasping, it seems, to understand what I may have not understood. But I am finally resigned to the central fact that I just did not enjoy this book. I did not find it interesting, enlightening, or funny. I did not see it as an adequate representation of the "voiceless" as I have been told it is. I did not find the writing to be terribly well-crafted, and the tiny chapters drove me crazy.

If I had to
Judy Vasseur
Aug 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a horror novel. Attack of the hissing babies. No, really, it’s a horror story about things that can happen when you are poor in America.

Like gum disease when you are just a kid, and penny-colored teeth when you get older, and then no teeth at all.

It’s a renegade, complicated book about class in America. If you are poor and do not have health insurance, you can have an eye operation performed in your very own bedroom by the family patriarch or you can go to jail for decent health care.
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Nov 06, 2012 rated it liked it
A cringeworthy, gagworthy, beautifully-written, disgusting story, written long before we could see these characters on the Honey BooBoo channel...
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
Not pleasant but this book populated by lower class people who remind me of many of my neighbors is a telling portrayal of class in our country.
David Ward
Apr 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The Beans of Egypt, Maine by Carolyn Chute (Ticknor & Fields 1985) (Fiction). This tale was referenced in a recent book called White Trash: The 400 Year Untold Story of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg (Viking 2016). That volume noted that The Beans of Egypt, Maine and Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison were late-twentieth-century depictions of poor white families in the literary tradition of William Faulkner. I read them both to see. As to author Carolyn Chute's The Beans of Egypt, Ma ...more
Patrick McGrady
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I have lived almost 3 decades, the entirety of my life, in the great state of Maine. I love Maine. My mother (almost 6 decades, most of her entire life in Maine) recommended this book to me. It was not what I expected. I would rate the first half of the book a 2 and I was forcing myself to see it through. The second half was better and caught my interest some. 3 stars is generous.

My fear is that people will read this and think everyone from Maine is an unintelligent, inbred redneck. Large popula
Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was ok

Jell-o. An aluminum mobile home with Christmas lights shining year round. Wonderbread. Car parts as lawn ornaments. The stench of cigarettes, gasoline, and beer. Domestic violence. Skinned rabbits. Lots of 'praise Jesus'-es. Gum disease. Jail-time. Warm water and sugar as baby formula. Bonny Loo, Beal, Earlene, Rubie, Roberta and their never-ending trail of babies. These are the Beans of Egypt, Maine.

In this shameless novel, we get a raw encounter with financial, cultural and intellectual pover
Victoria Mixon
Sep 13, 2010 rated it liked it
My friends and I read this when it was first published back in the Mezozoic Era, and, boy, did we all enjoy the hilarious, black humor depiction of those trailer trash dinosaurs we all lived across the road from. . .

But I had no idea what was going to happen to published literature over the course of the next thirty years, so it didn't occur to me to read it simply to find out how well-written it was.

This time I do, so it did. And, wow, for the first two-thirds of the novel was I in love with Ca
Jennifer Porter
Aug 21, 2012 rated it did not like it
Chute's depiction of the working-class leaves much to be desired. And I often wondered as I read the book what her true motives were in depicting people as not only uneducated and ignorant but also lacking in any depth or intelligence. Her characters have no regard for their own children's welfare as if they cannot learn anything. None of them read. None of them can ever figure anything out. They are all living in the dark ages. Bonny Loo knows literally nothing but attends school. Chute makes a ...more
This was recommended to me as a good read for a resident of rural Maine. While it was quite factual in some respects, it was also very sad and disturbing in those same respects. The chapters of Earlene spying on the Bean's and how her father's opinions on the Bean's shaped her view was spot on. It was tragic to follow Earlene's life though, from an extremely sheltered and religiously formed childhood to adulthood of marrying her rapist and further being his victimized wife. And her shame of hers ...more
Oct 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A glaringly honest portrait of grinding poverty in Maine, though the author does not condemn or even sympathize with her characters. She simply tells it how it is. I've got the 1985 edition and wish I had a newer edition with the afterword in which Chute talks more about her novel. This version simply... ends. Yes, it's a depressing novel, but it sticks with you while you're reading it. An interesting read, but not on my list of must-reads.
Sep 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Really it's a 2.5 but I rounded up since I did finish it. It is like a bad car crash just can't look away. Honestly, this book disgust me. I hated the characters, the bean bags(the women) and all of the beanie babies. The men were the most vile of them all. It was duck dynasty,emphasis on the nasty, meets honey boo boo in Deliverance.
Dec 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
Worst piece of literary garbage I was ever forced to read in high school. Completely gross. If Jerry Springer wrote a novel, this would be it.
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Reading in Maine: "The Beans of Egypt, Maine" (Egypt, Maine #1) by Carolyn Chute 1 4 Mar 04, 2014 02:37PM  
Reading in Maine: From Away 11 120 Mar 04, 2014 02:16PM  

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Chute's first, and best known, novel, The Beans of Egypt, Maine, was published in 1985 and made into a 1994 film of the same name, directed by Jennifer Warren. Chute's next two books, Letourneau's Used Auto Parts (1988) and Merry Men (1994), are also set in the town of Egypt, Maine.

Chute also speaks out publicly about class issues in America and publishes "The Fringe," a monthly collection of in-d

Other books in the series

Egypt, Maine (6 books)
  • Letourneau's Used Auto Parts
  • Merry Men
  • The School on Heart's Content Road
  • Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves
  • The Recipe for Revolution

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