The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver; Harper Perennial, 2009.
It’s been two weeks since I’ve written a book review. That should tell you something about this book right there.
For some reason, it took me over a week to get into it, and it’s not a long book – only about 230 pages. I should’ve had that book read in three days. I have been a little busier with my internship and class, but still, it should’ve taken five days. Tops.
The story is about Taylor (nee Marietta/Missy, but she decides on a whim to change her name), who’s managed to make it to adulthood in her hometown in Kentucky with a high school diploma and no babies, which is quite an accomplishment in her town. She buys a run-down car and decides to leave Kentucky, not knowing where she’ll end up. Somewhere in Oklahoma an old Cherokee Indian woman leaves a toddler on her passenger seat. Taylor is stuck with this little person, who has been abused and is in a catatonic state. She doesn’t know what else to do, so she takes the child, whom she nicknames “Turtle”, with her. They end up in Arizona.
Taylor starts working at a tire shop and meets Mattie, a woman who helps illegal immigrants and refugees find safety in the US. Two such persons are Estevan and Esperanza, who are political refugees from Guatemala. Taylor falls in love with Estevan and also comes to grips with being a mother for Turtle. As Turtle begins to come out of her shell (haha), Taylor and Turtle form a bond as strong as that between a mother and child. But Estevan and Esperanza are in danger in Arizona, and because Taylor has no official paperwork for Turtle, she risks losing her. The four set off back to Oklahoma to save each other and learn the meaning of family.
It’s a beautiful story, but the pace feels as monotonous as the flat plains of Oklahoma. The best part was Turtle – the reader can’t help but fall in love with her. The few moments in which we see her acting as playful as a normal toddler are precious. Still, if I had known it would take so long, I wouldn’t have checked it out at the library.