I first "met" Barbara Kinsolver because of an Oprah Book club recommendation. A few years ago I read the Poisonwood Bible, which was about an American family who travel to the Congo as missionaries in 1959. It was an eyeopening epic and I was hooked on Barbara Kingsolver the author.
The Bean Trees is a story about Taylor Green, who is a young woman bent on changing her life in a big way. Stuck in a small Kentucky town after graduating high school and not wanting to continue life as her classmates had - pregnant and unaware of the world that awaits them. Taylor earns enough money to purchase an '55 Volkswagen with threadbare tires, no starter and no windows.
When she ends up in Tucson, Arizona, she has a three year old Cherokee Indian child on the seat beside her. This trip only took several months, but the story behind this cross country travel is extraordinary and believable.
This book is full of surprises and adventure. It is also full of thought provoking chapters about family, illegal aliens and their plight and hardship. At times every character is tender and giving in nature... and then you turn a page and find this new family unit at odds.
Taylor finds herself employed at a tire repair shop called Jesus Is Lord Used Tires with a huge mural on the outside fence of Jesus with what appears to be a tire yo yo in one hand. This establishment is on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona and also happens to be a sanctuary for Central American refugees.
This young, strong, level-headed young woman who grew up in rural Kentucky, finds love and friendship, abandonment and belonging and finds that apparently empty spaces are full of amazing surprises waiting for her to find them.
For a girl bent on not getting pregnant at an early age, she ends up with a three year old child. She becomes first a protector and then a mother. Just at the end of the novel, when you know life is going to throw Taylor one more curve ball and take her new child away... you see how clever she really is.