Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Bean Trees - Barbara Kingsolver

I have enjoyed two other Barbara Kingsolver books. My first exposure to her was when I read Prodigal Summer, years ago when I was in college. My second experience was listening to The Poison Wood Bible on audio a couple years ago. I have since listened to it a second time and can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed it both times. I was looking for something at a bookstore many weeks ago and found The Bean Trees. Knowing I'd had such a grand experience with the author on two previous occasions, I decided it was worth purchasing the book and taking it home with me.
I was surprised to learn that The Bean Trees is actually Ms. Kingsolver's first book, written in 1988, and that it is frequently required reading in college lit courses. I had never heard of it, but I can see why it would be considered so popular a choice.

First, the story is captivating and entertaining. I was instantly attached to the characters and involved with them emotionally. But aside from it's entertainment appeal, there is a lot of discussion worthy material in the book.

In a nut shell, we have the main character, Taylor, who lives in a small Kentucky town where you have a good chance of ending up pregnant. Her biggest dream has been of getting away and discovering what the world holds. So when she saves up enough money, she buys a barely getting along old car and hits the road, no particular destination in mind.

By the time she gets to Tucson, she's been saddled with an abandoned baby and her car is on it's last leg. As one thing leads to another she must come to terms with her new role a mother and the need to put down roots and be responsible. As the author's website puts it, "Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places."

I enjoyed this book so much and would strongly encourage all to read it. It was quick and light and fun to read, but also prompted some emotion and thinking.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Caleb's Crossing - Geraldine Brooks

This was an audio book selection that I enjoyed.

In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. The story in Caleb's Crossing is based on this event. Geraldine Brooks weaves a beautiful story around the characters.

The story is told by Bethia Mayfield and begins when she is in her early teen years, still enjoying the freedom of youth before predictable life as a colonial wife begins. In her forest ramblings, she meets a young indian boy. They reach past the language barrier to become great friends, and rename each other. She becomes Storm Eyes, and he becomes Caleb.

A few years later, her father, a minister who's heart is in converting the local natives, takes in Caleb and another young native boy and begins to tutor and train them towards an acceptance to Harvard, where he hopes they will graduate as ministers to their people.

Through unexpected tragic events, Bethia finds herself indentured to the school master in Cambridge who has taken on the education of her brother, Make Peace, and Caleb. Life on the mainland is a vastly different world than the one they new in the island colony, and all three have much to learn about life and love.

I enjoyed the story, and the narrator's work. It's always interesting listening to audio books. Truly, the narrators can make or break a book for me. This was a pleasant story, and pleasant also to listen to. Not on of the "Oh my gosh you've got to read this" type, but still a good, solid, enjoyable story.