PIGS IN HEAVEN/Barbara Kingsolver

The first ever Barbara Kingsolver that I read was The Bean Trees, which I liked immensely. So I resolved to get hold of another BK book and when I saw Pigs in Heaven in my favorite book shop, Booksale, I bought it without any hesitation.

Pigs in Heaven turns out to be a sequel to The Bean Trees and I loved it as well. It is wonderful to see Taylor Greer now all grown up and mature and her daughter Turtle able to talk in complete sentences this time.

Pigs in Heaven begins three years after Taylor Greer decided to formally adopt Turtle, a 3-year old abused Indian girl left in her car while she is on her way to Kentucky. When Taylor and Turtle became instant celebrities after Turtle witnessed a freak accident at Hoover Dam, the relationship of Turtle and Taylor became the center of a cultural conflict of historic proportions. Will it be for the best interest of Turtle to go back to her roots in the Cherokee Nation or would it be best to just leave her with Taylor whom she already regards as her very own mother?

As usual, Barbara Kingsolver’s prose never fails to amaze, and amuse, me. I must confess I am now a Barbara Kingsolver fan and I resolve to read all of her books! (Goodbye, book buying ban resolution!). She is such a delight to read, and the allusions and allegories in Pigs in Heaven are simple yet profound.

I never had any idea about American Indians, except for some folklores I read while I was in high school. So it is wonderful to learn about Indians, more particularly Cherokee Indians, in this book. But more than an education about the tradition and culture of the Cherokee Nation, Pigs in Heaven is a colorful portrait of family love, relationships, and sense of belongingness. When does one say that he/she is in a family? Who are the persons you should call your family? Is family bound by blood or just by the simple idea that you feel you belong to one regardless of race or filial affiliation?

“But when you never put a name on things, you’re just accepting that it’s okay for people to leave when they feel like it.”

“They leave anyway,” Alice says. “My husbands went like houses on fire.”

“But you don’t have to accept it,” Taylor insists. “That’s what your family is, the people you won’t let go of for anything.”            p. 328.

I must say that although I enjoyed The Bean Trees, I like Pigs in Heaven more. The additional characters like the quirky Barbie, the ever-so-in-love-with-Taylor Jax, and the empowered mother Alice, have all added color to the story. The lawyer, Annawake Fourkiller, is also of added interest and feels right close to home. The legal and ethical issues of adoption within the Cherokee Nation is very informative and interesting.

I love how the story just beautifully wraps up in the end. It is the kind of story that just makes you sigh of contentment after you turn the last page. Also, the resolution about the connection of the title of the book to the story is a revelation which will make the reader think long and deep. Pigs in Heaven is a very compelling story that I believe anyone can learn wonderful lessons from. I recommend that one should read The Bean Trees first before reading this book.

5 stars.

3/50 2012 Goodreads Reading Goal.

1/2 Required Reading: January

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