Has there been a film version?
Who are the important characters?
Taylor Greer/Marietta – a young woman from Kentucky who winds up in Arizona with a child not her own
Turtle – a Cherokee child who has been traumatized emotionally and is given to Taylor
Lou Ann – a divoree mother who is obsessed with safety
Esteban/Steven – a Guatamalan refugee
Mattie – the owner of “Jesus is Lord” Tires and a woman who helps illegal immigrants
Esperanza/Hope – Esteban’s wife, she suffers from depression
What’s it about?
Taylor Greer is a girl who is fiercely independent and grabs at the first chance she gets to move out of her small Kentucky town. She wants to escape the destiny most girls there seem to have – pregnant right out of high school. So Taylor drives her beat up old Beetle west and along the way is given a Cherokee Indian child by a desperate young woman. The little girl, whom Taylor calls “Turtle”, has been abused horribly and refuses to speak. But Taylor sticks with her and together they make it to Arizona where the Beetle’s tires give out. In Phoenix, Taylor is faced with a complete change in lifestyle. The weather is nothing like Kentucky, neither are the people; and motherhood has been literally dumped in her lap. Taylor will learn to rely on friends and herself to find contentment.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
This was Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel and she exploded onto the literary scene with powerful storytelling and poignant messages.
Do you recommend I read this book?
How did this book make your list?
I think my mother made me read it the first time in high school.
Has it won any awards?
No – surprisingly.
“If there had been any earthly way around this, I would have found it. I loved Mattie, but you know about me and tires. Everytime I went to see her and check on the car I felt like John Wayne in that war movie where he buckles down his helmet, takes a swig of bourbon, an charges across the mine field yelling something like ‘Live Free or Bust!'” – p 77
I put off reading this book for ever so long. I always get it mixed up with “Their Eyes Were Watching God” for some reason. I know, they’re nothing alike. And I don’t like “Eyes” so that kind of transferred over to a prejudice against reading this book. Now…I love it. I try and read it at least once a year. Not because it is profound in any way, except possibly spirit. Turtle breaks my heart every reading. And I wish I could be as strong as Taylor is.
The beautiful stories that are interwoven in this book are so complex. Kingsolver uses so many different examples of dysfunctional family to use it to define what family is – to illustrate the necessity of relationships. Whether it was Taylor and Lou Ann, or “Poppy and Parsnip,” or Esteban and Esperanza. Kingsolver uses the trials and unexpected turns of life to show how relationships hurt us and help us heal so that we can become stronger people.