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.