Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees is possibly one of my favorite books of all time. The book deals with an incredible amount of life experience in a very short amount of time, and it does it with grace. The book follows Taylor Greer as she runs west, away from her small Southern town, and ends up taking care of an abused and shell-shocked toddler whose parents she’s never met.
The real appeal of The Bean Trees is in how well Kingsolver addresses pain. The story contains death, violence, irrational fear, child abuse, sexual abuse, disillusionment, divorce, deportation, blindness, loss of a child, kidnapping, “dirty war”, torture, guilt, and unrequited love – and yet, all of it is handled so carefully that I would recommend the book to anyone over twelve years old. The book opens wounds and then heals them so completely that the entire experience is uplifting, even when there are still loose ends. It makes you feel empty and full at the same time.
Five stars, and please go read this book. ♦