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Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

Pigs in Heaven (original 1993; edition 1994)

by Barbara Kingsolver

Series: Turtle (2)

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4,654None1,019 (3.9)98
Title:Pigs in Heaven
Authors:Barbara Kingsolver
Info:Harper Perennial (1994), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver (1993)


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Warning: Spoilers for The Bean Trees.

As I noted in my review of The Bean Trees, I was bothered by the plot device of the Cherokee child conveniently acquired without strings, and an adoption made legal by a deception that coopted other people. The sequel aims to fix this situation.

On a trip to the Hoover Dam, Turtle watches a man drop into a spillway and wonders how he’ll get out. Taylor didn’t see, but trusts that her daughter doesn’t make stuff up, so she pesters officials until someone pays attention and the man is rescued. Turtle becomes a local celebrity and is invited onto Oprah, where she is noticed by Annawake, a lawyer for the Cherokee Nation. Annawake checks out the adoption story and discovers a glaring discrepancy: Taylor said on TV that Turtle was given to her by the sister of the dead mother, but the official adoption papers are signed by a couple claiming to be the birth parents. Either way is a violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act, which stipulates that the decision belongs to the tribe.

Annawake drops in on Taylor in Tucson. Taylor panics and sets off with Turtle, keeping in touch with boyfriend Jax. Taylor’s mother Alice in Kentucky leaves her uncommunicative husband and joins Taylor and Turtle on the road. Annawake sends a letter explaining the law and the problems it is meant to remedy, which Jax opens and reads over the phone. Alice is sympathetic and figures she can visit cousin Sugar who married a Cherokee, and with whom she shares a Cherokee grandmother, to see what’s what. Cash, retreated from his Cherokee origins to Wyoming for a few years after family deaths and estrangements, is prompted by a disillusioning incident to return home and maybe find what happened to his granddaughter. So now Taylor is on the lam with Turtle realizing the perils of being alone, Alice is a welcome guest realizing the comforts of an extended family, and Annawake is trying to balance law and people. This is all a bit spoilerish, but the relevance of the strands is obvious early on. The essence of the novel is abundant humanity with a neatly wrapped package at the end.

So it’s a novel, and coincidental resolution is satisfying, but the loose ends are irritating. Where are Estevan and Esperanza, dramatically crucial to the adoption? They rate a sentence. Turtle was abused and that’s just kinda let go. It’s individual versus community, with colorful characters and a subplot of lactose intolerance. Oh, and also it’s told in present tense, so every time I picked up the book I was simultaneously looking forward to the story and bracing to readjust to the style.
1 vote qebo | Feb 22, 2014 |
3.5 stars

Taylor adopted a little Native girl, 3-year old Turtle, after Turtle was "dumped" on her by a stranger saying to take care of her. When Turtle is 6, something happens to bring the two of them into the limelight, and they are noticed by Annawake, a Cherokee lawyer who insists the adoption is illegal and sets out to bring Turtle back to the Cherokee Nation and to her roots.

It was a bit slow at times, but whenever Taylor and Annawake interacted, I was riveted. But, there wasn't enough of that for me. I thought the ending was a little too nice and neat for me, very unrealistic, I thought. I liked some of the characters, well, particularly one: Taylor's boyfriend, Jax, who was quirky, but very likeable. Overall, it was still good, but I think it could have been better, although I don't know how I would have wanted it to end, but it just wasn't realistic enough for me. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jan 7, 2014 |
This is the sequel to the wonderful novel, [b:The Bean Trees|30868|The Bean Trees|Barbara Kingsolver|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1176567973s/30868.jpg|1095121]. For some strange reason, the books do not label each other as sequels, but the so very much are.

Basic Summary: This picks up 3 years after the conclusion of The Bean Trees, when Turtle (who was thrust upon Taylor at a bar on the side of the road in Oklahoma) has fully settled into life with her Non-Indian mother in Arizona. Everything changes for them after Turtle is the only witness to a man falling down a spillway at Hoover Dam; an event that makes her a primetime hero. She's featured on Oprah, with other children who have saved lives, and is spotted by Annawake Fourkiller - a lawyer for the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Annawake instantly knows that Turtle is Cherokee and begins finding a way to have her returned to the tribe where, Annawake feels, she best belongs. Shenanigans and hijinx ensue in this moving tale of family, Cherokee culture and the gentle way of the South.

This book was delicately written, soft-spoken with such unexpected power. I had tears in my eyes by the end of the book, eagerly devouring each page -- anxious to find out what would happen to Turtle. Barbara Kingsolver does an unmatched job of creating depth in her surroundings. It is evident that she cares very much about the seemingly innocuous details of the Cherokee tribe culture, the southern dialects, the NW weather.. everything she put to words, she put with her heart.

I loved this book.

Favorite Quotes:

1) "I think TV does all the talking for you and after awhile you forget how to hold up your end".

2) "Cash wanted to know every single how and what, in order to muffle the sound of 'why?'."

3) "Everybody's got their troubles, and their reasons for getting a clean start. People's always curious for the details, but seem like that's just because we're hoping somebody else's life is a worst mess than ours".

4) "He's not really running away, Angie explained, he just don't have a real good understanding of where home ends and the rest of the world picks up". ( )
  tealightful | Sep 24, 2013 |
This is a story about the many dimensions of family and culture. Turtle Greer is the "adopted" daughter of Taylor Greer. She was abandoned to Taylor by an unknown woman in a parking lot. She had been abused as a toddler. Taylor went through a phony adoption process to give some measure of legal status to the three-year old girl, who is clearly a native American. Several years later, as the result of an incident that gave the child fleeting national exposure, an Indian lawyer from the Cherokee nation identifies the child as an Indian, most likely from the Cherokee tribe. Annawake Fourkiller, new out of law school, knows that the placement of the child with a white woman contravenes the law, which holds that Indian children cannot be adopted by white families without the consent of the tribe. (Annawake has had a painful family experience where her twin brother was whisked away for adoption and not seen again.) She finds out that the adoption was falsified, and, in any event, could not have been done legally without the tribe's consent. She makes inquiries of Taylor about this which causes Taylor, who has developed a deep motherly attachment to Turtle, to flee with the child to avoid the possibility she will have to give her up.

Taylor's mother, Alice, from Kentucky, has a distant connection with the Cherokees in Oklahoma. Running from a loveless marriage she goes to the reservation to reconnect with her childhood cousin, Sugar Boss from Heaven, Oklahoma. There, she finds out about the lawyer's interest in locating Turtle and trys to come up with a solution. She discovers that by distant bloodline she is eligible for membership in the tribe.

In the meantime, Taylor and the child have located to the northwest where she struggles to make ends meet. She has little contact with her family (a boyfriend and close friends) back in Arizona), not revealing to anyone where she and the child are living. It is clear that Kingsolver means to show that without the network of support that family provides, life is very lonely and difficult.

Alice realizes that family and shared cultural identity are deeply held values among the Cherokees. She experiences how the Cherokees perceive themselves as a more than extended family and how young and old share ties and common rituals that bind them to each other. Interestingly, the poverty and ramshackle nature of the nation's circumstances on the reservation do not in the slightest way mar the strong ties the tribe's members hold for each other. She wants to protect Turtle and Taylor, but she shows some ambivalence about the countermanding imperative for tribal cohesion that underlies Annawake's intent to have the child returned to tribal custody. In contrast to the tribe's unity and mutual support in the midst of great poverty, Taylor's struggles to provide for Turtle are heightened by her isolation from family.

There is a solution to the problem. Although a bit deus ex machina in nature, Kingsolver's climax involves matchmaking of Alice's cousin and acquaintances with a tribal member, Cash Stillman, who has recently returned from a self-imposed exile in Wyoming. Cash Stillman turns out to be the child's grandfather. With him in the picture, the tribal court is able to arrange joint custody so that the child can learn about her heritage while remaining with her mother. It's a tad of a stretch, but it works fine.

What's important about this fine novel is its emphasis on the meanings of the family connections that define who we are. Taylor has a love for Turtle so strong that she flees her family and tries to protect the child, though struggling terribly to make a life for them in a strange city. (Note the contrasts from where she left, near Tucson, to where they end up -- the Pacific northwest. And, see how Taylor has had a very unconventional "family", really a sort of hippieish community, but nonetheless a family.) On the other side, the deep cultural roots of the Indians are plainly to be seen. The
intertwinings of their shared society go way beyond common understood conceptions of an "extended" family.

The book tells the history of the grossly misguided attempts of white society to eradicate Indian culture and how this is the impetus behind the late day efforts (and laws) to preserve their identity. There is the opportunity in the novel to remember the displacement of Cherokees from the southeast to "territory no one else wanted" via the infamous "Trail of Tears". Cash himself is a product of the notorious boarding schools of the 20th century which were aimed at "Americanizing" Indian youth. (To be honest we must call this, along with overt slaughter of the 19th century, genocidal in nature.)

I've not yet been disappointed by Kingsolver -- The Poisonwood Bible, The Lacunae, and now Pigs in Heaven. As you start her novels you wonder "now where's she going with this?", but as you get further along you think, "oh, wow". ( )
  stevesmits | Aug 31, 2013 |
Last year I really liked Kingsolver's "The Bean Trees" and have been looking forward to the followup, "Pigs in Heaven". I found myself just a little disappointed. Taylor and her adopted cherokee girl Turtle return, about 2 years after the events in the Bean Trees. We get a new cast of interesting characters including Taylor's mother Alice, one whose story we learn a little. Taylor's boyfriend Jax I liked a lot, but not with the way the story treated him.

This book is quite a bit longer but it didn't engage me as much as the first. The majority of things revolving around the young Cherokee lawyer just didn't interest me. Her character put me off.

There are a couple of seemingly unrelated people and story lines that come together towards the end. This is still a good read but it was missing that "something special" charm for me. ( )
  RBeffa | Apr 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
The case for community is so one-sided and the outcome so predictable that the reader begins to suffocate in all the sweetness. You begin to cringe at treacly lines like "Heaven's on down the trail a little bit" and "I oftentimes have communication problems with my heart." Ms. Kingsolver is oftentimes a talented, funny writer in "Pigs in Heaven," but after a while you begin to wish she would invent a Hell, Okla., and make a case for living there, too.
Barbara Kingsolver's terrific new novel, "Pigs in Heaven," picks up where her highly acclaimed first novel, "The Bean Trees," left off. In this heart-twisting sequel, her feisty young heroine, Taylor Greer, is faced with the possibility of losing her 6-year-old daughter, Turtle.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara Kingsolverprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Critt, C. J.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060922532, Paperback)

A phenomenal bestseller and winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for fiction, Pigs in Heaven continues the story of Taylor and Turtle, first introduced in The Bean Trees.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:08 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Brings together Taylor, Turtle and Alice from "The Bean Trees" together with a new cast - Jax, Barbie Sugar Boss, Oklahoma and Annawake Fourkiller. When six-year-old Turtle witnesses a freak accident at the Hoover Dam, her insistence, and her mother's belief in her, leads to a man's rescue.… (more)

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