The story begins in rural Kentucky with young Missy Greer, who grows up in a loving but poor home with a single mom. Missy has a happy childhood but is seen as an outcast – along with the other farm kids – by her classmates who live in town and are the football players and cheerleaders. She is determined to get away, and finally, in her early 20’s, she buys a ’55 Volkswagen bug with no windows or backseat, and she heads west and renames herself Taylor.
Before finally settling in Tucson, Arizona, Taylor ends up with an abandoned little American Indian girl she calls Turtle. Taylor and Turtle gradually make some new friends in Tucson: kind Mattie who runs a tire shop called Jesus is Lord Used Tires and helps Central American refugees and timid Lou Ann, a fellow displaced Kentuckian. Despite her youth, Taylor finds reserves of strength and draws support from her new-found family.
The Bean Trees is a warm novel about friendship and life, with all its ups and downs. Kingsolver has a talent for creating quirky characters with emotional depth, and she writes with a gentle sense of humor, even while tackling difficult subjects. The characters all feel like good friends, and I never wanted the story to end. Fortunately, I have the sequel, Pigs in Heaven, waiting right here. I can’t wait to dive back into Taylor and Turtle’s world.