Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver, is the sequel to The Bean Trees, which I wrote about a few months ago. I enjoyed this book just as much as the first one, although there are definite differences between the two. The characters are the same and the story is a continuation of the one in The Bean Trees, but the plot structure and the flow of the narrative are rather different. Whereas The Bean Trees felt like it was just following someone’s life, with no definite need for a resolution until well into the book, Pigs in Heaven starts out early one with a clear conflict to be resolved. The overall plot outline is that three years later, the main character, Taylor, finds out that the Cherokee child she adopted may not be legally hers, and there is a lawyer from the Cherokee Nation who wants to contest it. The story follows Taylor as she lives in hiding and her mother as she visits a relative in the Cherokee Nation in order to find out more from the lawyer. It is a compelling plot and Kingsolver presents it excellently. Here is where it becomes more similar to The Bean Trees: in her wonderfully unique style and her ability to make the reader care deeply about the characters. She examines the issues surrounding the Cherokee Nation with sensitivity, and in fact made me understand some aspects of contemporary Native American (and Cherokee in particular) culture that I hadn’t thought about before. She also, like in The Bean Trees, touches on the large topics of love, family, and community, making you think and feel without being preachy.
I could hardly put Pigs in Heaven down as I neared the end. In fact, I was almost late being somewhere due to reading, and the second I got home I picked up the book and read to the end (it was the weekend) – I’m not sure I noticed what I ate for lunch. The ending was just about perfect, appropriate to the story and plot as well as satisfying to the reader. I appreciated that the subject of Turtle’s (the adopted daughter’s) abuse was addressed near the end and it was recognized (by a psychologist) that she had not yet completely healed from her abuse – this made the ending more perfect because it was more realistic.
I highly recommend Pigs in Heaven. I am looking forward to reading more books by Barbara Kingsolver.