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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. ISBN: 0-06-017579-6

This is Barbara Kingsolver's first novel, and by far the best of her work I've read so far. Of course, I've only ever read two of her other books, The Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer. Both of them were good, but they don't hold a candle to The Bean Trees. This is probably the best book I've read, period, since The Secret Life of Bees.

We used it as our car book for a while, my wife and me, but we both wanted to keep reading so bad that we couldn't wait for our next road trip, and just finished it up on our own. That's the kind of book it is. Not a page turner in the sense of you have to know what's happening next, but a page turner in the sense that it just grabs you and won't let you go. Tears at your heart strings, to use a tired cliché.

The author provides a few of her rules for writing fiction on her website FAQ. Here are two of them:
  • Your first sentence (or paragraph) makes a promise that the rest of the story (or novel) will keep.
  • Give your reader a reason to turn every page.
I can't think of a book that fulfills, lives up to, exemplifies those rules better than this one.

So what's it about? A couple of girls from Kentucky who end up in Arizona. Both have children, one naturally, one by accident, and they don't have men, just their kids. But telling you the main elements of the story won't do you any good. They don't even remotely begin to explain anything. Just trust me. You've got to read this book. You owe it to yourself, and once you read it, you'd never forgive yourself if you hadn't.

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