“The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingslover

Book: The Bean Trees

Author: Barbara Kingslover

The book The Bean Trees , by Barbara Kingslover is about a young country girl named Taylor from a shabby part of Kentucky where the teenage girls get pregnant and drop out of school like flies. Taylor leaves her home to travel west to find better opportunities. While passing through a Cherokee area of Oklahoma Taylor decides to stop at a bar for some food. On her way out of the bar, a Cherokee woman came out with a young child and told Taylor to take the child. The woman said not to go back into the bar, but to take the child with her. Reluctantly Taylor drove away with the young child, who appeared to be three or four. Apparently the young girl couldn’t talk. Taylor decided to call the young girl Turtle.

Taylor’s car broke down in Tucson, Arizona right in front of an auto shop called Jesus Is Lord Used Tires. The elderly woman who owned the shop was very friendly to Taylor and Turtle, her name was Mattie. Mattie housed illegal immigrants in the back of her house. Mattie looked at Taylor’s car and told her the tires were bad, and that it would cost $65 to get good used ones. Taylor knew she couldn’t afford that, so she decided to stay in Tucson. Taylor and Turtle ended up sharing a house with a newly divorced mother named Lou Ann. Lou Ann and Taylor became very close friends.

While Taylor and Lou Ann went to work they left their children with two elderly women named Edna (who was blind) and Virgie. One day Edna took Turtle and Dwayne Ray (Lou Ann’s son) to the park across the street. Because Edna was blind she didn’t notice that it was getting dark. All Edna heard was a man breathing very hard and she heard Turtle scream, so Edna swung out her cane and she hit the man. Later that night Taylor took Turtle to the hospital so she could find out if she was hurt. The hospital recommended that Taylor take Turtle to a psychiatrist, because violence can be detrimental to children. After a couple of meetings the psychiatrist said that Taylor should take Turtle back to Oklahoma, where she was acquired, and try to find any one from her biological family, so that Taylor could be Turtle’s legal guardian. The psychiatrist also told Taylor that the state of Arizona could take custody of Turtle and they would put her in an orphanage if she didn’t get the proper adoption papers. Taylor had begun to love Turtle, and Taylor realized that life without Turtle would be impossible.

Taylor told Lou Ann that she was going to Oklahoma. Taylor also told Mattie that she had decided to transport two of the refugees, that she had become very close to, over to a church in Oklahoma. The husband and wife that Taylor would transport were named Estevan and Esperanza. Mattie told Taylor that it was very dangerous, but Taylor said for good friends it was worth the risk.

When they got to Oklahoma Taylor, Turtle, Estevan, and Esperanza went back to the bar to look for anyone familiar. They saw no one they recognized because the bar had come under new management. The four friends went to see an official who could arrange for Taylor to be the legal guardian of Turtle, but Turtle needed someone from her biological family to be present. So Estevan and Esperanza pretended to be Turtle’s parents. Estevan told the man that he and his wife couldn’t afford to have a child and that they knew Taylor would be a good and caring mother for Turtle. Taylor was granted custody of Turtle. Taylor drove to the church and sadly but safely left Estevan and Esperanza. Taylor and Turtle silently headed back to their home in Tucson.

The main character of the story was Taylor, and her major problem was the fact she needed adoption papers for Turtle or else the state of Arizona could have taken Turtle to an orphanage. Taylor over came this problem first by trying to do the honest thing and find someone related to Turtle. When no one was found Taylor thought of what would be best for Turtle. With the help of Estevan and Esperanza she decided that for her to have custody of Turtle would be in Turtle’s best interest. So Esperanza and Estevan put on an act for an official who then arranged for the adoption.

The climax of the book was when Taylor had to decide whether she should go to Oklahoma to look for Turtle’s family, or give Turtle up to the state. Taylor was depressed for about a week trying to make a decision. Finally Taylor decided that she had nothing to lose by going to Oklahoma. Taylor realized that she had an obligation to Turtle, and she couldn’t just desert her.

The main theme of the book is that you have to deal with whatever is handed to you. This theme comes up many times in the book. In the beginning of the book Taylor has to cope with being born in a place where many of her schoolmates dropped out because they got pregnant. Taylor is a very decisive character, once she decided what to do she is determined to carry it out. “I stayed in school. I was not the smartest or even particularly outstanding but I was there and staying out of trouble and I intended to finish.” This shows that Taylor knows how to deal with having the people around her slacking off, and still stay on track herself.

Lou Ann had to cope when her husband left her and their young son. Lou Ann dealt with being able to afford the house by getting a roommate to help pay rent, and after the money that her husband gave her ran out Lou Ann decided to get a job rather than always have to rely on someone else to support her.

This book was intriguing because many of the topics brought up in the book can be related to situations in everyday life. The Bean Trees was also very informative, because in the book Lou Ann was always finding out hazards and safety tips from magazines, and she would share what she found out with the reader. Not only did you end up reading an interesting book you also came out of it knowing how prevent some problems from occurring.