Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Bean Trees - Re-Reading in the Tucson Desert

Now that I live in Tucson I have to re-read all the novels by Barbara Kingsolver since she lived in Tucson when she started her writing career. I read The Bean Trees 20 years ago when I lived in New Hampshire. 

I don’t think an easterner can really appreciate or know what a southwestern landscape is really like from reading a book. Now that I know the area she writes about I see the story in a new way.  

“The whole Tucson Valley lay in front of us, resting in its cradle of mountains. The sloped desert plain that lay between us and the city was like a palm stretched out for a fortuneteller to read, with its mounds and hillocks, its life lines and heart lines of dry stream beds.” "There was a cactus with bushy arms and a coat of yellow spines as thick as fur. A bird had built her nest in it. In and out she flew among the horrible spiny branches, never once hesitating. You just couldn't imagine how she'd made a home in there."

In the story, the main character, Taylor “lands” in Tucson in March; possibly the best time to be here. She meets people, visits area parks, and watches her first monsoon arrive with thunder and lightening. I love how the character learns about Tucson in this book; and I missed it all the first time around.

I love reading about Taylor watching the quail and how wisteria grows in the desert heat. There are so many elements in this book that are symbolic of how to live a good life and why we meet the people we do. The story is simply a good one. You can read plot summaries all over the internet, but for me, I just kept reading the landscape.

"There seemed to be no end of to the things that could be hiding, waiting it out, right where you thought you could see it all."

Taylor is amazed at the life in the desert. An after living here for two years, I am still amazed at the wildlife, the colors, the blooming desert, and all the things hiding in the trees and rocks. And the smells…

“That was when we smelled the rain. It was so strong it seemed like more than just a smell. When we stretched out our hands we could practically feel it rising up from the ground. I don’t know how a person could ever describe that scent.”
― Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees

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