Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver

Spoiler warning: If you plan to read these books, which I absolutely recommend you do, read The Bean Trees first. Although it never says so anywhere on the cover, Pigs in Heaven is a sequel.

 

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Three stars, read in 2010.

I have very mixed feelings.

I had a really hard time putting this book down while I was reading it. Barbara Kingsolver is just a fantastic writer. There’s a quote from the San Francisco Chronicle in the blurb on the back that says “Kingsolver makes you care about her characters to the point of tears,” and it’s true. I love Taylor and Alice and wish I knew them in real life. But I am so frustrated with the way the book ended, after having been tense and anxious through the whole last half of it, that I can’t even decide how I feel about it. It’s an amazing book, but did I love it? How can I be sure, since I was furious when I finished it?

I am not a member of a Native American tribe, so clearly I don’t understand all the complicated dynamics of it (which they talk about endlessly in the book). And I know the dynamics are complicated, given the kidnapping of thousands of Native American children by U.S. foster care systems, and every other horrific abuse of their people. Without going into too much spoilery detail, all I can say is that I have a very hard time with the idea of a child custody case being decided based on the “welfare of the tribe,” not the welfare of a child who is being taken away from the mother who raised her. This was a difficult story for me, including one specific character that I just really wanted to kick in the face.

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