The Book Junkie

            The Bean Trees is such a beautiful story. It is both elegant and engaging, and when I finished, I felt richer for having read it.  The story itself is interesting, and the characters—most notably Taylor Greer and her de facto daughter Turtle—are round and real. The opening lines are memorable for their unexpected humor: “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. I’m not lying. He got stuck up there.”

            Marietta Greer leaves small town, Kentucky to escape the possibility of ending up like all her classmates: barefoot, pregnant, and trapped. She promises herself that she won’t end up with a baby and that she’ll make something of herself.  She will be independent. Well, she ends up with someone else’s baby, and the baby makes something of her. And she doesn’t quite make independent; she has to learn that she has to depend on others sometimes, and she has to learn whom to depend on.  

            Marietta starts off by getting in her jalopy and heading west. On the trip, she changes her name to Taylor, after the town where she finally runs out of gas. Taylorville is also where she picks up Turtle, her baby. A Cherokee woman hands the girl to Taylor; the woman says that the child is in danger and has already been hurt, and she can’t care for her. So Taylor takes the baby—a responsibility she has no idea how to deal with—and continues on her trip.

            Taylor and her newly acquired daughter finally light in Tucson. There, Taylor faces lessons she set out to escape: how to be a mother, how to be friends and accept friendship, how to be a family, and the importance of putting down roots. Taylor finds friends in unexpected places, including a local used tire shop, where serendipity leads her not only to new tires but to a job and a friend and mentor in the owner, Mattie. She also finds support and friendship in her roommate Lou Ann, another new mother struggling to find her role in the world. When Taylor learns that she’ll have to fight to keep Turtle—for whom she now feels like a true mother—Mattie, Lou Ann, and the others she’s befriended in Tucson are by her side.

            The Bean Trees grabbed me from the first page, and kept me intrigued until the end. I loved the language, the people, and the story. It was definitely worth reading.

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