The Bean Trees is an early novel from Kingsolver, who wrote The Poisonwood Bible, which was a very serious book club favorite. Taylor is a recent high school graduate from Kentucky who packs up a beat up old car and heads west to find her fortune (or something. This is set in the 70s.) Taylor is pretty plucky, so you get the feeling she will be just fine.
Somewhere in Oklahoma, a woman drops a toddler into her car. She claims to be the child’s aunt, says the mother is dead and Taylor has to take the child. The child, nicknamed Turtle, has been through some serious abuse. Taylor takes her and keeps on driving.
They land in Arizona, and begin to build a life among a group of outcasts and exiles. So you can guess where that is leading.
Taylor is a smart-aleck, but she is also very open about her own ignorance and asks questions so that she can learn. One of the fabulous moments in the book is when Taylor discovers that her neighbor, a very kindly old lady, is blind. She never knew because her roommate, a particularly cranky old lady, is her eyes. Taylor has to reconsider every judgment she has made about these two women and their relationships.
I very much enjoyed the story and even skipped to the end because I couldn’t wait to see whether Turtle stays with Taylor in the end. And when I flipped back to LibraryThing to pull the cover picture, I discovered that this is the first in a series. That made me happy.