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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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The Bean Trees

by

The Bean Trees Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away. But when she heads west with high hopes and a barely functional car, she meets the human condition head-on. By the time Taylor arrives in Tucson, Arizona, she has acquired a completely unexpected child, a three-year-old American Indian girl named Turtle, and must somehow come to terms with both motherhood and the necessity for putting down roots. Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places.

Available for the first time in mass-market, this edition of Barbara Kingsolver's bestselling novel, The Bean Trees, will be in stores everywhere in September. With two different but equally handsome covers, this book is a fine addition to your Kingsolver library.

Synopsis:

Barbara Kingsolver's 1988 debut novel is a classic workof American fiction. Now a standard in college literature classes across thenation, and a book that appears in translation across the globe, The BeanTrees is not only a literary masterpiece but a popular triumph—anarrative that readers worldwide have taken into their hearts. The Los Angeles Times calls The Bean Trees “the work of a visionary. . . . It leaves you open-mouthed and smiling.”

Synopsis:

Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away. But when she heads west with high hopes and a barely functional car, she meets the human condition head-on. By the time Taylor arrives in Tucson, Arizona, she has acquired a completely unexpected child, a three-year-old American Indian girl named Turtle, and must somehow come to terms with both motherhood and the necessity for putting down roots. Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places.

Available for the first time in mass-market, this edition of Barbara Kingsolver's bestselling novel, The Bean Trees,will be in stores everywhere in September. With two different but equally handsome covers, this book is a fine addition to your Kingsolver library.

About the Author

Barbara Kingsolver was born on April 8, 1955. She grew up "in the middle of an alfalfa field," in the part of eastern Kentucky that lies between the opulent horse farms and the impoverished coal fields. While her family has deep roots in the region, she never imagined staying there herself. "The options were limited--grow up to be a farmer or a farmer's wife."

Kingsolver has always been a storyteller: "I used to beg my mother to let me tell her a bedtime story." As a child, she wrote stories and essays and, beginning at the age of eight, kept a journal religiously. Still, it never occurred to Kingsolver that she could become a professional writer. Growing up in a rural place, where work centered mainly on survival, writing didn't seem to be a practical career choice. Besides, the writers she read, she once explained, "were mostly old, dead men. It was inconceivable that I might grow up to be one of those myself . . . "

Kingsolver left Kentucky to attend DePauw University in Indiana, where she majored in biology. She also took one creative writing course, and became active in the last anti-Vietnam War protests. After graduating in 1977, Kingsolver lived and worked in widely scattered places. In the early eighties, she pursued graduate studies in biology and ecology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where she received a Masters of Science degree. She also enrolled in a writing class taught by author Francine Prose, whose work Kingsolver admires.

Kingsolver's fiction is rich with the language and imagery of her native Kentucky. But when she first left home, she says, "I lost my accent . . . [P]eople made terrible fun of me for the way I used to talk, so I gave it up slowly and became something else." During her years in school and two years spent living in Greece and France she supported herself in a variety of jobs: as an archaeologist, copy editor, X-ray technician, housecleaner, biological researcher and translator of medical documents. After graduate school, a position as a science writer for the University of Arizona soon led her into feature writing for journals and newspapers. Her numerous articles have appeared in a variety of publications, including The Nation, The New York Times, and Smithsonian, and many of them are included in the collection, High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never. In 1986 she won an Arizona Press Club award for outstanding feature writing, and in 1995, after the publication of High Tide in Tucson, Kingsolver was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from her alma mater, De Pauw University.

Kingsolver credits her careers in scientific writing and journalism with instilling in her a writer's discipline and broadening her "fictional possiblities." Describing herself as a shy person who would generally prefer to stay at home with her computer, she explains that "journalism forces me to meet and talk with people I would never run across otherwise."

From 1985 through 1987, Kingsolver was a freelance journalist by day, but she was writing fiction by night. Married to a chemist in 1985, she suffered from insomnia after becoming pregnant the following year. Instead of following her doctor's recommendation to scrub the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush, Kingsolver sat in a closet and began to write The Bean Trees, a novel about a young woman who leaves rural Kentucky (accent intact) and finds herself living in urban Tucson.

The Bean Trees, published by HarperCollins in 1988, and reissued in a special ten-year anniversary hardcover edition in 1998, was enthusiastically received by critics. But, perhaps more important to Kingsolver, the novel was read with delight and, even, passion by ordinary readers. "A novel can educate to some extent," she told Publishers Weekly. "But first, a novel has to entertain--that's the contract with the reader: you give me ten hours and I'll give you a reason to turn every page. I have a commitment to accessiblity. I believe in plot. I want an English professor to understand the symbolism while at the same time I want the people I grew up with--who may not often read anything but the Sears catalogue--to read my books."

For Kingsolver, writing is a form of political activism. When she was in her twenties she discovered Doris Lessing. "I read the Children of Violence novels and began to understand how a person could write about the problems of the world in a compelling and beautiful way. And it seemed to me that was the most important thing I could ever do, if I could ever do that."

The Bean Treeswas followed by the collection, Homeland and Other Stories(1989), the novels Animal Dreams(1990), and Pigs in Heaven(1993), and the bestselling High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now and Never(1995). Kingsolver has also published a collection of poetry, Another America: Otra America(Seal Press, 1992, 1998), and a nonfiction book, Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of l983(ILR Press/Cornell University Press, 1989, 1996). The Poisonwood Bible, published in 1998, earned accolades at home and abroad, and was an Oprah's Book Club selection.

Barbara's Prodigal Summer, released in November of 2000, is a novel set in a rural farming community in southern Appalachia. Small Wonder, April 2002, presents twenty-three wonderfully articulate essays. Here Barbara raises her voice in praise of nature, family, literature, and the joys of everyday life while examining the genesis of war, violence, and poverty in our world.

Barbara Kingsolver presently lives outside of Tucson with her husband Steven Hopp, and her two daughters, Camille from a previous marriage, and Lily, who was born in 1996. When not writing or spending time with her family, Barbara gardens, cooks, hikes, and works as an environmental activist and human-rights advocate.

Given that Barbara Kingsolver's work covers the psychic and geographical territories that she knows firsthand, readers often assume that her work is autobiographical. "There are little things that people who know me might recognize in my novels," she acknowledges. "But my work is not about me. I don't ever write about real people. That would be stealing, first of all. And second of all, art is supposed to be better than that. If you want a slice of life, look out the window. An artist has to look out that window, isolate one or two suggestive things, and embroider them together with poetry and fabrication, to create a revelation. If we can't, as artists, improve on real life, we should put down our pencils and go bake bread."

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

N, September 24, 2011 (view all comments by N)
This is a terrific book! Just read the first paragraph, I guarantee you will be hooked!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(0 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
cmdoduck, February 10, 2011 (view all comments by cmdoduck)
I really enjoyed reading this book. I would read this book again, it felt like I would enjoy the second read even more than the first. I felt like I could really relate to the main character even though I had never been in the same situations as she had. Even the supportive characters were lovable and I am proud to say that I have friends as wonderful as hers were. It also proves that you just don't know where a friend or support might come from. Our lives take us in so many directions, and we don't realize how wonderful those are until we look back and see how so many of our decisions (or things we don't decide to do) can change our lives for the better. Barbara Kingsolver does a great job at showing through the events in the book how even bad things can turn out to be good.
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brookerochelle, March 7, 2010 (view all comments by brookerochelle)
Heartwarming and funny. I couldn't wait to read it through again.
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(3 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 4 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780060915544
Author:
Kingsolver, Barbara
Publisher:
HarpPeren
Author:
by Barbara Kingsolver
Location:
New York :
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Friendship
Subject:
Humorous Stories
Subject:
West (u.s.)
Subject:
Automobile travel
Subject:
Young women
Subject:
Orphans
Subject:
Indian children
Subject:
Orphans -- Fiction.
Subject:
Bildungsromane.
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Humorous fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series Volume:
no. 299
Publication Date:
20031125
Binding:
Book
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8.08x5.38x.64 in. .43 lbs.

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The Bean Trees Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Harper Perennial - English 9780060915544 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Barbara Kingsolver's 1988 debut novel is a classic workof American fiction. Now a standard in college literature classes across thenation, and a book that appears in translation across the globe, The BeanTrees is not only a literary masterpiece but a popular triumph—anarrative that readers worldwide have taken into their hearts. The Los Angeles Times calls The Bean Trees “the work of a visionary. . . . It leaves you open-mouthed and smiling.”
"Synopsis" by , Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away. But when she heads west with high hopes and a barely functional car, she meets the human condition head-on. By the time Taylor arrives in Tucson, Arizona, she has acquired a completely unexpected child, a three-year-old American Indian girl named Turtle, and must somehow come to terms with both motherhood and the necessity for putting down roots. Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places.

Available for the first time in mass-market, this edition of Barbara Kingsolver's bestselling novel, The Bean Trees,will be in stores everywhere in September. With two different but equally handsome covers, this book is a fine addition to your Kingsolver library.

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