This novel was Barbara Kingsolver's first book. I get tripped up like this once in a while, looking for a book to buy in an airport or something, and seeing this brand new snazzy-looking paperback by an author I really like, snapping it up and then finding it was their first book ever, written 21 years ago as this one was. I know, one has only to look on the copyright page but I just don't always.
Anyway, it's not that Kingsolver's first book disappointed me. It reminded me a lot of Miriam Toews's The Flying Troutmans, which my friend Joerg said he had to read to the end because, like watching a train wreck, you have to see what happens. Like the Troutmans, the heroine of The Bean Trees is a young single mom finding her way in the world, in this case by working in a tire shop and learning how to parent a baby that was set in her car by a desperate woman who couldn't care for her dead sister's child. Bean Trees, like Troutmans, also includes an epic cross-country trip which solves a great problem. It's a pleasant read with some food for thought, especially regarding refugees and immigration.
Of Kingsolver's other books I've read only two: Poisonwood Bible, which I found complex and riveting, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which was a big eye-opener for me this summer regarding local food. Both books are deep and wide, whereas The Bean Trees is just a good, light read, the beginnings of the excellent writer Kingsolver has since become.
Interesting. I think I gave up on The Flying Troutmans at some point, maybe just because it had to go back to the library...but more likely because I wanted it to be A Complicated Kindness and it wasn't. Perhaps I should return to it.ReplyDelete
Yes, no comparison between those two of Miriam Toews's books. The Flying Troutmans for me ranked with The Summer of my Amazing Luck,which I didn't like much at all, whereas Complicated Kindness was as good as or (considering it won the GG) maybe even better than Swing Low. Or just different, since Swing Low is kind of in a category by itself. And these various qualities are all mixed up chronologically. I keep wondering what she'll come up with next.ReplyDelete
I too bought this book in an airport because I'd read and loved the Poisonwood Bible, but have to say that while I read it from cover to cover, I left it exactly where I finished it, and felt no need to bring it home to add to my collection of "must read again" books.ReplyDelete
Now I'm second guessing myself and thinking I might have read it at your place this summer! Is it possible????ReplyDelete
No, I only bought it in October. Funny we had the same "airport" experience. Shows how a big name sells. I agree - it seems like kind of an amateurish book. Do you read books more than once if you really like them? I never do, but sometimes think I should.ReplyDelete