Find your next favorite audiobook

Become a member today and listen free for 30 days
The Bean Trees

The Bean Trees

Written by Barbara Kingsolver

Narrated by C.J. Critt


The Bean Trees

Written by Barbara Kingsolver

Narrated by C.J. Critt

ratings:
4/5 (181 ratings)
Length:
9 hours
Publisher:
Released:
May 19, 2009
ISBN:
9780061901874
Format:
Audiobook

Description

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 Turtle, and must somehow come to terms with both motherhood and the necessity of putting down roots.

Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places.

A HarperAudio production.

Publisher:
Released:
May 19, 2009
ISBN:
9780061901874
Format:
Audiobook


About the author

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of nine bestselling works of fiction, including the novels, Flight Behavior, The Lacuna, The Poisonwood Bible, Animal Dreams, and The Bean Trees, as well as books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction. Her work of narrative nonfiction is the enormously influential bestseller Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Kingsolver’s work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned literary awards and a devoted readership at home and abroad. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts, as well as the prestigious Dayton Literary Peace Prize for her body of work. She lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

Related to The Bean Trees

Titles In This Series (1)
Related Articles

Reviews

What people think about The Bean Trees

4.2
181 ratings / 98 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    I did not like it as much as I did when I read it in the 1980s. I suppose it's bit dated and preachy. I felt that it was paternalistic in regards to Turtle. Still I enjoyed her descriptions of the desert and Tucson. Kingsolver is most skilled at writing about the natural world.
  • (5/5)
    Barbara Kingsolver is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, even though this is only the second of her books that I've read.

    The Bean Trees is the story of Taylor Green (born Marietta), who manages to leave her Kentucky home and head west. Along the way, she unexpectedly gains custody of a baby and ends up in Arizona. There, Taylor finds friends who become a new family for her, and she learns that the things that she always avoided were actually the things that she values the most now.

    Taylor is one of my favorite narrators. She's funny, irreverent, and clever. I loved the relationship between her and Lou Ann, and I appreciated the fact that, at least in the beginning, Taylor wasn't a good parent to Turtle, and she knew it. She absolutely had faults and weaknesses that balanced her out and made her a much more dynamic character.

    I would honestly love to read more about Mattie: her history, how she became the person that she is now. She was fascinating to me - as was the story of Estevan and Esperanza, which I'd also like to learn more about.
  • (5/5)
    Barbara Kingsolver is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, even though this is only the second of her books that I've read.

    The Bean Trees is the story of Taylor Green (born Marietta), who manages to leave her Kentucky home and head west. Along the way, she unexpectedly gains custody of a baby and ends up in Arizona. There, Taylor finds friends who become a new family for her, and she learns that the things that she always avoided were actually the things that she values the most now.

    Taylor is one of my favorite narrators. She's funny, irreverent, and clever. I loved the relationship between her and Lou Ann, and I appreciated the fact that, at least in the beginning, Taylor wasn't a good parent to Turtle, and she knew it. She absolutely had faults and weaknesses that balanced her out and made her a much more dynamic character.

    I would honestly love to read more about Mattie: her history, how she became the person that she is now. She was fascinating to me - as was the story of Estevan and Esperanza, which I'd also like to learn more about.
  • (5/5)
    Totally wonderful in every way. The story is touching written with a mixture of humor and sadness and tenderness in just the right proportions. The geography is Kentucky to Arizona back to Oklahoma briefly. The characters are a young woman and a small child along with a number of others who are so interesting and fun to know. The plot just keeps on going, not rushing, but totally absorbing. I listened to the audiobook with narrator C.J. Critt who did a wonderful job on the various voices. There is a sequel and I'm looking forward to it. Kingsolver has not lost her spot on my favorite authors list.
  • (5/5)
    Barbara Kingsolver remains one of my favorite authors for her ability to weave many issues into a compelling plot about interesting characters. Many books that talk about issues make them a front-facing part of the plot whereas many here are explored by the characters as they discover them. Kingsolver is particularly good at making wonderfully true women in her books.
  • (3/5)
    A well-crafted story, but I'd already read "The Poisonwood Bible" and "The Prodigal Summer" and was disappointed that this book did not seem as rich or multi-layered as those later works.
  • (5/5)
    I fell in love with plucky, courageous Taylor Greer from page one as she abandons her Kentucky home to move west to Tucson, Arizona desperate to evade a certain fate of wedlock-free baby-raising. This is the fastest reading, essentially plotless book you'll ever meet, filled with excellent characters including Taylor herself, her worrywart roommate Lou Ann, no-nonsense Mattie down at Jesus is Lord Used tires, a pair of Nicaraguan refugees, baby Turtle, who is obsessed with vegetables. This pack of irrepressible characters leaps off the page. Kingsolver's early writing is lucid, full of wisdom and sympathy for her characters and the unexpected places life takes them.
  • (5/5)
    "Mi'ija, in a world as wrong as this one, all we can do is to make things as right as we can." Turtle remains one of my favorite literary characters of all time, and the friendships forged by Taylor, Turtle's accidental ma, with Mattie, Lou Ann, Estevan, and Esperanza, are so sweet and timeless. Exploring such themes as belonging and loyalty and sacrifice and the courage to keep going, the novel follows Taylor from her Kentucky hometown to Tucson. Driving west in a ramshackle VW, she doesn't know what she seeks but along the way she acquires Turtle, a silent and adorable toddler. Turtle needs Taylor but, of course, Taylor needs Turtle, too. As their bond grows, so does Taylor's understanding of the brutality of the world and the beauty of connection. I'm not sure I would have given this five stars if this had been my first time reading the novel, but I remembered it as a five-star read from the late 1980s and I'm sticking with that rating due to the novel's ability to so firmly ensconce itself in my reading memory. I thoroughly enjoyed it and plan to seek out a copy of the sequel, Pigs in Heaven, for a reread very soon.
  • (5/5)
    Really enjoyable book on families of all kinds.
  • (4/5)
    A beautifully told story of friendship and self discovery. The central and ancillary characters are mostly all women who face heartbreak but who persevere through it and learn about the importance of being honest with oneself and others as well as the strength of the human spirit.
  • (4/5)
    A very warm and homely American book. With interesting down to earth characters
  • (2/5)
    The plot is set short and the book isn’t all too exciting, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who looks for the thrill of a story in a book, it was a bit bland
  • (5/5)
    The book swept me off my feet and put me in its world right away. I was completely engaged with all the caracters and I liked the narrator as well. It is a classic great book, I felt truly connected with it.
  • (3/5)
    3.5 stars When Taylor Greer sets out to drive away from the place she grew up in Kentucky, her life will change more than she thinks when, as she is driving through a Cherokee reservation in Oklahoma, someone hands her a baby and tells her to take care of it. Taylor keeps going as far as Tucson, Arizona with the baby she later calls Turtle. In Tucson, she must find a job and a place to live and figure out how to take care of this baby. This was enjoyable. I was engaged and wanted to keep reading. I have already read Pigs in Heaven (which actually continues the story of these characters, but I hadn't realized that till after I'd finished PinH), so I was somewhat familiar with Taylor and Turtle. It's not a very long book, so it is quick to read.
  • (5/5)
    A plot summary would take a long time and be very complicated. This is a wonderful book that touches on adoption, undocumented immigrants, and the Southwest. Memorable, briefer than some of Kingsolver's later books and a fine introduction to her work. Very highly recommended.
  • (4/5)
    The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver; (4*)Barbra Kingsolver really keeps this, her first novel, alive with her always excellent style and the strong themes that are evident throughout the book. Her weaknesses here are her character developments and a weak plot. Overall this was a very enjoyable read and it kept me entertained to the point of laughing out loud & waking my husband many times while reading it.The book starts out with a very catching tale of a girl named Taylor preparing to go out on her own right out of high school with very little money . After that the author keeps it interesting by combining the story of Lou Ann's character with that of Taylor so that eventually their paths cross. Kingsolver throws many things into the story that both Lou Ann and Taylor have to deal with such as an abandoned baby, a one-legged rodeo husband, and illegal refugees that affect everyone's lives. This story keeps you entertained and is a joy to read.The author uses a strong family theme throughout the story and adapts it to fit with the characters. The theme of family isn't the normal one. It shows that you don't have to be related to people to love and care for them and consider them your family. She uses two examples of this type of family in her story. First we learn of Lou Ann, Taylor, Duwayne Ray, and Turtle. They all love and depend on one another and consider themselves to be a family. We also learn of Mattie, Esperanza, Estevan, and all the other illegal refugees who live in Mattie's apartment. They care for one another and take care of each other just like a normal family would. Kingsolver uses imagination and style to keep the story entertaining and upbeat. She keeps it flowing and makes it easy to read. She uses realistic dialect to make the characters come alive and to make them seem real. She also uses figurative language like similies and extended metaphors to indirectly help the reader understand what is going on.Then too, she uses symbolism to represent certain parts of the story that she finds important. She uses the song sparrow to represent Turtle and to show what developments she might make throughout the course of the book. Her style is her best feature through the course of this book. Most of the main characters go through major changes throughout the course of the story. Lou Ann changes from having very low self-esteem to being more confident and believing in herself. Taylor, a major character in this book, develops a sense of independence and feelings of love for her new family. Turtle is maybe the most dynamic character in the story. She goes from being completely untalkative to being like a normal little kid. Over all the characters seemed real and true. This story was entertaining and interesting.I loved it and highly recommend it.
  • (4/5)
    There is something about Barbara Kingsolver's work that just appeals to my reading sensibilities. Her novels always just feel like they are right in my reading groove. I seem to be reading her backwards - starting with her more recent work, and making my way back to this, her first novel. It's interesting to see how she has progressed as a novelist, and also recognize the common elements in her work. This novel certainly has her signature strong female protagonists, as well as her commentary on some aspect of social justice. This book is very much about the need for finding a community, and the importance of family - your own, or the one you choose. I'm excited to find out that Kingsolver has written more books about the Greer family - I look forward to reading them.
  • (5/5)
    As with other Kingsolver books I've read, the narrative of The Bean Trees meanders a bit before finding its stride. It takes its time deciding if the story is about Taylor (the narrator), Lou Ann, Turtle or the other characters who populate this fictional corner of Tuscon Arizona. At the half way point, the story finally focuses squarely on Turtle. It's at that point that the book goes from being something to be read slowly, savoring each chapter, to something to be read in one sitting. While the first half took me about a month to read, the second half took me three hours. I'm glad I stuck with it.
  • (4/5)
    This is the prequel to Pigs in Heaven which I read first. It tells the story of Taylor Greer who made the decision to leave the Appalachian town where she was reared. She has escaped the teen pregnancy that has captured the lives and future of many of her class mates, but she understands that before long she will be captive of the region's way of life. She strikes out for the west in a broken down VW (and by way of escape adopts the name Taylor as a way of leaving her life behind). Along the way she stops in Oklahoma for a meal and when returning to her car finds a toddler in the back seat, abandoned by a woman who pleads with her to take the child. She names the child "Turtle";it's evident the child is native American. She motors on to Arizona where her car breaks down. Needing repairs she cannot pay for, she meets Mattie, the owner of the "Jesus is Lord" tire store. Mattie takes her in and gives her employment. Mattie is involved with a network that provides sanctuary for illegals working to get them out of Arizona. Taylor moves in with Lou Ann and they form a sort of family with the child.She worries about the status of the child and decides to return to Oklahoma to try and officially adopt the child. She takes two of the illegal immigrants along with her with the idea of settling them in Oklahoma where they might be able to pass as Indians.While it's plain that the child is a native American from the nearby Cherokee nation, Taylor obtains a quasi-legal adoption from a social worker in the area. This questionable proceeding will form the basis of all kinds of complications in the next story.The novel centers around culture in our country and, in Taylor's circumstances, what it means to escape from one and seek to integrate into another. It is, of course, a journey of personal transformation and about establishing connections in manifestly different ways that one's life experience. Taylor in a very different way then might be expected given the cultural norms she grew up with goes about finding new non-traditional but clearly family-like relationships.
  • (4/5)
    Barbara Kingsolver is moving up on my list of authors. This is the second novel I've read from her and I enjoyed it - not as much as I enjoyed [Prodigal Summer] but it's still up there.Just like in Prodigal Summer, Kingsolver manages to bring in a cast of characters and fleshes each out well-enough that you can appreciate everyone of them and not feel overwhelmed. It's a rough story in parts to read - not because of her abilities, but because of the subject matter here and there. But well-worth the read overall!
  • (4/5)
    Easy read...funny how I grew up in KY and never met anyone close to Taylor, before or after I left KY for good. The most interesting people are in wide open locales that are not rooted in tradition. Or, so I think. Thank goodness for the American West and people w/ at least a modicum of a vision. Taylor.
  • (3/5)
    This starts out as sort of Tom Robbinsesque whimsical baby boomer Americana only less funny only but also less misogynistic only but also weirdly anti-intellectual in this annoying way. Then it gets interestingly problematic--a window on young white progressive people trying to come to terms with what it means to be decent in post-Disney America (book written 1988). Maybe it's not fair to expect Kingsolver to avoid all the things that make 2014 people cringe (is it too soon to dub our decade the "Age of Awkward"?), but the cringes keep coming nevertheless, with the main character harping on about being one-eighth Cherokee and adopting a child who's been sexually abused and who, since that's obviously a mark of Cain, almost gets abused again in short order by a random park weirdo, or the nice old blind lady who probably just wants to sit and smell the wisteria but who Kingsolver forces to get up and dance and be indomitable for her supper all the time. You know? It's a shame because Kingsolver is a decent writer in many ways, economically limpid descriptive passages and deftly cute character passages. (A lot of people might add "little anecdotes," which are another regular feature, as a third stylistic strength, but they're a bit too pointedly intended for the delivery of a takeaway for me).The story gets a bit of a spine with the introduction of a refugee couple from Guatemala who the protag ("Taylor") is trying to help get to a safehouse and get fake papers, etc. We get some of Taylor's struggle to not put the moves on the handsomely haunted husband because of his prettily traumatized wife, and it is whitesplained to us for sure but the interesting colonial valences--who owns the story? Who owns sexy brown-skinned romance?--are quite clear. They even become interestingly complex at the end, where one-eighth Cherokee tries to formally adopt the baby she has been slung with, who is full Cherokee, and the Guatemalans have to pose as baby's parents and give her up and she looks just like their baby who they lost to Sensationalistic Third World Horror--there are still annoying aspects but it really works, the interplay of power relations and identity things becomes downright contrapuntal, and the losses and found(ling)s of parents and children give it even a fairytale air. It salvages the book to an extent. And I mean, I think Kingsolver is far enough away in time that the cracks are showing but not yet far enough that we can say "well, things were different then." If this book had been written in the seventies, even, I wouldna batted an eye. She's all right.
  • (3/5)
    Kingsolver's debut story of Taylor Greer who is on a trip west and ends up in Tucson, Arizona. She avoids getting pregnant and she gets away from Kentucky but by the time she ends up in Arizona she has a three year old American Indian girl she calls Turtle. This is a story about so many things. It addresses women's issues, issues of abuse, issues of immigration. Its a good story and the heroine is very appealing. I liked and enjoyed reading this story. The characters were fun. I think that the social issues are presented nicely but they are one sided.
  • (5/5)
    A beautiful story that demonstrates the power of love.Taylor Greer set out on a cross country trip to escape the fate that had been bestowed upon most of her teenage high school peers, unexpected motherhood. Despite this, she is surprised by a woman who gives her a toddler halfway on her journey to find a new place to call home. Although reluctant at first Taylor kept the child and named her Turtle after strong grip and eventually fell in love with Turtle as if she were really her own.Throughout the novel she meets new friends, new companions and her first love...who happens to be an illegal immigrant...and married. But that was only a small part of the novel. Kingsolver's debut novel shows how a self discovering journey can really test a person and what they had once thought were their priorities. Taylor became a confidant woman in herself and an amazing mother who helped her daughter overcome her past demons. It was heartwarming and endearing, I would strongly recommend it as a feel good novel.
  • (4/5)
    A fast read. Action, reaction, emotional upheaval. Thought provoking. Taylor and her foundling "daughter" Turtle wind up in Tucson when their VW bug has two flat tires. A bit simplistic, but I love her writing. There's humor here, and growth, and the promise of a wonderful future.
  • (4/5)
    I really needed a light and funny read after some of the heavy and gothic books I have been reading. This fit the bill perfectly. I had read this book so many years ago that I can't remember when, so it was like reading a fresh story for me.

    The first sentence sets the tone for this novel perfectly: "I have been afraid of putting air in a tire ever since I saw a tractor tire blow up and throw Newt Hardbine's father over the top of the Standard Oil sign." How can you not fall totally in love with a book with an opening like that? The characters are sassy, down-to-earth, eccentric, and very, very real. While this one probably won't change your life, it will tug at your heart strings and make you laugh. It should also make you run to another Kingsolver book!

    Recommended.
  • (3/5)
    The Bean Trees is a compliment to women; coming together to conquer adversity. Throughout the book there are references of a garden in the harsh Arizona desert; hope and beauty under the most difficult of life’s circumstances.

    "We were sitting out with the kids in Roosevelt Park, which the neighbor kids called such names as Dead Grass Park and Dog Doo Park. To be honest, it was pretty awful...The grass was scraggly, struggling to come up between bald patches of dirt...Constellations of gum-wrapper foil twinkled around the trash barrels."
  • (5/5)
    Barbara Kingsolver is quickly rising to the top my favorite authors lists. Swoon!

    Basic Summary: This is a magnificent story of the power of love and family. Blood and acquired. Marietta Greer spent her entire rural Kentucky life swearing she would not get pregnant like all the other girls in her town. She saves up enough money to by a '55 VW and heads West to see what life has to offer. At a road-side bar in Cherokee Nation, a toddler wrapped in dirty blankets is thrust upon her by a Native American woman. The woman says the child's mother is dead and the child will be harmed if she stays with her. The mysterious woman puts little Turtle into the backseat and takes off. Now, Msrietta has a child - the very thing she was looking to avoid - and must find a place to call home. She takes on a new name of Taylor and heads to Arizona where she meets the most unlikely bunch of people.

    Now I don't do this book justice with my late night review of it, because it is truly a piece of work. I believe this was Ms. Kingsolver's debut novel and it is incredible. She has an incredible knack for visualizing beauty with words. For creating deep-down depth, you love her characters to the point of tears. It is rare to find an author who can master fluidity as she can.

    I've yet to read The Poisonwood Bible, which I know is the main book people swoon over - nevertheless, I am enamored with her awe-inspiring delicate touch of Native American culture and life in the Southwest. The only thing that confused me was that I didn't know there was a sequel to the book (Pigs in Heaven). They are not listed as such in the jackets of either book, nor on her website. Only on Goodreads are they put together and thank goodness for that. If you read Pigs in Heaven prior, there'd be no point in reading The Bean Trees. You would also miss the huge character build and emotional tie-in if you skip the prequel.

    <3

    Favorite Quotes:
    1) "I had decided early on that if I couldn’t dress elegant, I’d dress memorable".
    2) "Sadness is more or less like a head cold - with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer".
    3) "That was when we smelled the rain. It was so strong it seemed like more than just a smell. When we stretched out our hands we could practically feel it rising up from the ground. I don’t know how a person could ever describe that scent".
  • (3/5)
    Many who know my taste in literature have, over the years, suggested Barbara Kingsolver to me. Any Kingsolver, they said, you'll love everything she does. Well, the first part of their promise has yet to be seen, but they were definitely wrong about the second. Any Kingsolver won't impress me: The Bean Trees certainly did not.It was probably not the best story to start with. Those who recommended Kingsolver wouldn't steer me wrong—not completely anyway. After all, this was her first novel and it certainly showed potential. The problem was The Bean Trees was all wrong to me. It reeked of author manipulation. I'm all for the author showing her hand in her work, but it has to be done skillfully—this was not the case here. Kingsolver had an idea—a great idea—for a story, but in order to make it work, she had to bend here and there, align all the pieces on the board just right so that the story made sense. But for me, it didn't make sense. Why would Taylor, who's primarily goal in life is to escape pregnancy, take this child that is thrust upon her with barely a thought? Who said the child wasn't already a victim of kidnapping, the kidnapper quickly trying to rid herself of her crime? The premise is preposterous, yet the story hinges on the reader's acceptance of these facts. Then we sprinkle in a dose of illegal immigration, abuse, and the faulty social work system so that we can get from Point A to Point B, and tie it up with a pretty little bow. It could work, except for the fact it doesn't.I think Kingsolver shows some talent, and if it wasn't the few good scenes she wrote in this novel, along with some good descriptive writing, and for the high recommendations of others, I wouldn't consider returning to her. The Bean Trees reminds me of something Jodi Picoult would've written, and perhaps this is why so many people love this novel. It has that same overworked, syrupy plot. There's certainly a fan base for this style of writing, but I'm not among them. I am sentimental and I love a story that can move me, but this... It's so over processed and reworked and forced into a mold that I could only love it for its potential.So I'll try again. I hear The Poisonwood Bible is fantastic.
  • (4/5)
    An entertaining story with plenty to think about and discuss and book club.