Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book Review IIII: The Bean Tree

The Bean Tree 

By Barbara Kingsolver

I have this issue, I hate liking things that everyone else likes. I also hate that this is now makes me a "hipster" and that to be contrary is now "in" but there is one exception to the above rule which is that if I like something before everyone else, I am allowed to continue enjoying it. It's all fine as long as I'm leading the band wagon, and not just jumping on board.

This is supposed to be about Kingsolver's book though, and not my efforts to be contrary (but it's related I swear.)

A few (okay maybe 5) years ago I read the Poisonwood Bible. I had avoided it for awhile because it was one of those books that everyone liked and there for I had to dislike. Also I don't usually trust popular opinion when it comes to books. See "Fifty Shades of Gray" and "Twilight." But I someone handed me a copy of it, and I read it and of course it was good. But it was good in that technical way. Things were just done technically right. It had the exotic setting. The ubiquitous culture clash. The obvious folly but tenacious family dynamic.

The Bean Tree by contrast seemed must less affected. It was one of Kingsolver's early works and I downloaded it off of Nook for $1.99. The Bean Tree followed a girl who could have spent her life in Kentucky but instead decided that she needed to go and do something so she sets off to drive across the country, picking up a new name and a Cherokee baby along the way. Her car breaks down in Arizona so that is where she stays. And she builds a new, albeit non-traditional, family for herself.

Unlike Poisonwood Bible, things didn't seem to go wrong that often. The tale was meandering. A few years in this girl's life. She met people and then her life moved on and they were left by the wayside. The way a normal life goes, although now we have Facebook so we become friends and eight years later I am still seeing your status updates even though I have no idea who you are or how we met, but you do look vaguely familiar so I feel guilty defriending you...

The ending is of course bittersweet. I guess this book felt a little bit like eating a roast beef sandwich. It was good, if not particularly clever or ingenious. The descriptions were excellent but at the end, it felt like you hadn't accomplished much. And you were wondering if there were any potato chips because you were still vaguely hungry.

I don't know, maybe I'm just too critical. Maybe I should start reading books I actually have to pay more than free for to find things worth reading. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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