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Review: The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

BooksHeatherAnne NorburyComment

I have struggled to write this review. This book was just "meh" for me. The first section of the book while Missy/Taylor was still in Kentucky felt oddly cobbled together. The focus on Newt Hardbine seemed out of place even then but by the end of the book when the character wound up getting but a passing mention, it really felt like a forgotten story line that never came to conclusion.

I am not a big Barbara Kingsolver fan. I don't dislike her work and I enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible but she is not an author I seek out to read. This was a book club selection for me. This definitely read like a first novel. There were a few truck-size holes in the plot that brought me up short as I was reading with their jarring presence.

I think I struggled writing this because I know so many people who really like this book. I won't say I hated it but it was just okay. Nothing great. Throughout the book the characters seemed to all just blindly accept their fate or lot without question or very much emotion. It was exceptionally hard to suspend disbelief at many points along the plot line, especially when Taylor just drives off with a baby in her car with no internal dialog or seeming care. As I mentioned already, it's as if she blindly accepted her lot without question. For someone who does NOT (I repeat, does NOT) read romance novels, I still apparently like some fiery, passionate people in my novels. The dialog often centered on how strong other characters perceived Taylor to be and yet most of her internal dialog and actions didn't really add up to a strong character to me.

If you are a Kingsolver fan, I think reading her first novel would be a good thing. You definitely see the seeds of her later, more refined style. I'd love to hear why other people love this book so much. So, what did I miss?