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The Bean Trees

(Greer Family #1)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  123,986 ratings  ·  5,775 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
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published March 1st 1989 by Perfection Learning (first published 1988)
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Kathy I read this many years ago and absolutely loved it. I liked the premiss of starting out to find/make your life and the fact that decisions we make,…moreI read this many years ago and absolutely loved it. I liked the premiss of starting out to find/make your life and the fact that decisions we make, even without really considering, shape the lives we eventually lead.(less)

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Larissa
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
Erika
Jun 25, 2009 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,
...more
Siria
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Natalie
Jul 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Richard Derus
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Real Rating: 1.5* of five

I made a huge mistake. I thought this was The Beans of Egypt, Maine. It wasn't...it was the hallucinations of a pregnant and sleep-deprived Kingsolver transmuted to fiction. I daresay its fans would say "art;" I beg to differ.

Like the unbearable gynergy of The Mists of Avalon, the fog of womanness that enshrouds this book blocked my view of its merits.
R. Kitt
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A girl gets out of her small town, after high school, to start a new life only to be saddled with a random child that was placed in her car. Her life is suddenly taking turns she did not expect.
Stacy
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
jess
Oct 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Wyndy
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“When I drove over the Pittman line, I made two promises to myself. One I kept, the other I did not.”

Marietta Greer, in her early 20’s, left Pittman, Kentucky alone in a 1955 VW bug with no windows, no back seat, and no starter. Her first promise to herself was to get a new name: “I wasn’t crazy about anything I had been called up to that point in life, and this seemed like the time to make a clean break.” Her second promise was to drive west until her car quit running and stay there. When Marie
...more
Laura
Mar 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenna
Jul 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
...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
...more
Rusalka
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barbara Kingsolver is an author I am terrified to revisit. Many years ago I read The Poisonwood Bible and I loved it. It was a hard read. It challenged me in so many ways, but it was epic and beautiful. Then, I read The Lacuna. Again the storytelling was magical, and with characters such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Leon Trotsky... so many real lives to carry you along.

So I have always been hesitant, although eager, to pick up her other works. I had this one and I thought, if her first novel s
...more
Misse
Apr 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
DebsD
I read The Poisonwood Bible a little over a year ago and loved it, so I'm not sure what made me take so long to pick up something else by Kingsolver (maybe that ever-so-long to-be-read list of mine...) I was aware that this was her debut novel and that some readers felt it wasn't as good as her later work, but I was pleasantly surprised. I agree that it doesn't demonstrate quite the same depth and polish as Poisonwood, but it's a bloody good debut and there are clear hints of how sharp and vivid ...more
Wanda
Oct 02, 2013 rated it liked it
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
...more
Black Elephants
Feb 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Rachel
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-08, overrated
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.
...more
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
...more
Michael
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
Julie
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Let me tell you something. . . if Barbara Kingsolver's fictional characters suddenly spring to life and buy houses in my beloved neighborhood. . . I'm moving.

Is it because they are creeps and criminals?

No. It's because they're boring and humorless and weird. I've officially read 3 of Kingsolver's novels now, and I haven't liked a single character. I enjoyed the story and the writing of Prodigal Summer, yet still managed to dislike every character. Poisonwood Bible and this one? No thanks. It's n
...more
Jamilka
Oct 23, 2008 rated it liked it
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
...more
Chris Gager
Time for something completely different and some female authors as well. This author is pretty famous I guess and this book has thousands of reviews on G'reads. My paperback edition has a cover similar to this but not identical. Copyright 1988. So far ... the author leans on the Kountry Kute button rather heavily, but I'm OK with it - so far. I hope I don't get all worn out and such. Making the eccentric believable and compelling can be a challenge. My nephew's wife is from Kentucky, so I can im ...more
Sissy
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Barbara Kingsolver… I now seem to have a love/hate relationship with this writer. My first attempt of reading her work was “The Poisonwood Bible”. I didn’t like it all.. Stopped reading a little after half way. For the longest I avoided her books until a good friend (whose judgment I trust) persuaded me to read this novel…”The Bean Trees”

I am so happy now that I have read this book. Kingsolver tells a wonderful story about love. About the love a person feels for friends, family and children even
...more
Elvan
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Maria
Jul 30, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Mary
Mar 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Brina
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
Joyce
Oct 27, 2012 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.
Marie
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
Ever since reading Prodigal Summer, I've been a fan of Barbara Kingsolver. Subsequently I read The Poisonwood Bible, which is a very challenging novel with serious stickability. Thus, I was curious to read Kingsolver's first novel, The Bean Trees, which was published in 1988.

Remarkably, the numerous themes--immigration, indigenous people, adoption, and a faulty judicial system--are still relevant today; I often forgot that I was reading a 30-year-old novel. And that the story begins in Kentucky
...more
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9,511 followers
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

Other books in the series

Greer Family (2 books)
  • Pigs in Heaven
“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.” 2183 likes
“In a world as wrong as this one, all we can do is make things as right as we can.” 188 likes
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