THE BEAN TREES
A warmhearted and highly entertaining first novel in which a poor but plucky Kentucky gift with a sharp tongue, soft heart and strong spirit sets out on a cross-country trip and arrives at surprising new meanings for love, friendship, and family--as well as overcoming the big and little fears that inhibit lives. Taylor Greer has always been afraid of two things: tires, one of which she saw explode and cripple a local tobacco farmer; and pregnancy, the common, constricting fate of her own mother and, generally, of young girls in Pittman County, KY, where she has grown up. To avoid the latter, Taylor, born Marietta, sets out on a set of the former to find a new life in the West. What she doesn't count on, however, is her flighty '55 Volkswagon temporarily "giving out" in the Oklahoma flatlands or the ditching of a dumbstruck Indian baby in the car while she has it fixed. By the time Taylor's car breaks down again, and finally, in Tucson, Taylor has figured out that the baby has been badly abused, but not how to support it or herself, or how to lure the baby back into trust, growth, and speech. So--she takes a job in a dreaded tire-repair shop from which her car refuses to budge, and meets a motley collection of sanctuary workers, refugees, other ex-Kentuckians, social workers, and spinsters who, together, help her to bolster her courage and create a real family for her sweet, stunned, unbidden child. A lovely, funny, touching and humane debut, reminiscent of the work of Hilma Wolitzer and Francine Prose.