2016: 53. The Bean Trees

“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.”

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver

Being, as you know, an incurable nerd, I always like to read books about the place I’m in while I’m there.  I left it a little late this time, so this book is about Tucson, which we didn’t visit, but at least it’s set in Arizona.  

I was a little iffy on picking it because, unlike most people, I read The Poisonwood Bible, years ago and had a vague memory of not liking it.  But I’m going to try again, because I really liked The Bean Trees.  Both the writing, which is quite lyrical, and the plot, which is very interesting, spoke to me.

It’s the story of Marietta, who changes her name to Taylor, gets in her old beater and drives west to escape her poor rural Kentucky town.  By the time she arrives in Tucson (i.e. her tires give up the ghost), she’s acquired, unexpectedly, a three year old American Indian child, who barely speaks, and she names Turtle.  The story is about Taylor settling down in Tucson, finding a community and learning to be a mother.  It also has a very significant subplot about illegal immigration.  The whole story is great, but it’s this part that really got me going.  This book was written in 1988, and we have done nothing to improve the lot of people who come here, just like our ancestors did (well, mine, maybe you are American Indian), to make a better life for them and their families.  Particularly in the wake of Trumpism, we as a people need to do better.  I need to do better.  I’m planning on seeking out some pro bono opportunities in that field once Nora starts 5 day school in the fall.  Get it together, America.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017