Pigs in heaven : a novel

by Barbara Kingsolver

Paper Book, 1993




New York : HarperCollins, c1993.


Picking up where her modern classic The Bean Trees left off, Barbara Kingsolver's bestselling Pigs in Heaven continues the tale of Turtle and Taylor Greer, a Native American girl and her adoptive mother who have settled in Tucson, Arizona, as they both try to overcome their difficult pasts. Taking place three years after The Bean Trees, Taylor is now dating a musician named Jax and has officially adopted Turtle. But when a lawyer for the Cherokee Nation begins to investigate the adoption-their new life together begins to crumble. Depicting the clash between fierce family love and tribal law, poverty and means, abandonment and belonging, Pigs in Heaven is a morally wrenching, gently humorous work of fiction that speaks equally to the head and the heart. This edition includes a P.S. section with additional insights from Barbara Kingsolver, background material, suggestions for further reading, and more.… (more)

Media reviews

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
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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.
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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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member silviastraka
This is the sequel to the Bean Trees. Turtle, as a result of a rescue publicized on national TV, is identified as the lost child of a Cherokee band. (Taylor had adopted Turtle, who had been thrust at her by the mother at a truck stop, who then disappeared). The fudged adoption comes to light and
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the novel focuses on the competing claims as to where Turle belongs. On the one side isTaylor, the white mother, who did not seek to scoop a Native child, but was herself very young and inexperienced when the child was given to her. Taylor has been an exemplary mother and there is a strong and healthy bond between her and Turtle. On the other side is the Cherokee band, whose lawyer lays out the multitude of reasons why Turtle belongs with her people.

Kingsolver does an excellent job in showing the validity of the claims of both sides. But the child cannot be sawed into half. The novel is the story of the conflict and its resolution, which turned out to be too convenient and facile -- creating an "everybody wins" scenario. This is the one aspect of this book I dislike. Other than that, I adore Kingsolver's writing and these characters.

I read this book a couple of years before I moved to Manitoba, with its large Indigenous population and its history of systematically taking Indigenous kids away from their parents. Since I am a social work educator, this is an important issue for me to grasp and I found that Kingsolver's novel helped me to gain some insight into why it is so important for these children to remain in their communities.
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
This novel continues the lives of Taylor and her adopted daughter Turtle Greer, protagonists of Barbara Kingsolver’s earlier novel The Bean Trees. Some of the themes include the meaning of family, community, motherhood, and belonging. On an Easter vacation trip with Taylor, her adoptive mother,
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six-year-old Turtle sees a young man, Lucky Buster, fall into a spillway at the Hoover Dam; her seeing him leads to his rescue and her own celebrity. Turtle and Taylor appear on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" with other children who have saved lives. Rescuing Lucky Buster, however, leads to discovery and change for Turtle and Taylor because a young Cherokee attorney, Annawake Fourkiller, sees Turtle and hears her adoption story on television.

Annawake, in spite of being counseled by her superiors to not pursue this case, becomes obsessed with returning Turtle to her Cherokee grandfather. She does this in the belief that Turtle will have an unsatisfactory adult life if she is not brought up in her Cherokee family. I was not impressed with this argument as it basically assumed that the bond between Taylor and Turtle was unimportant in light of Turtle's heritage. Taylor responds by fleeing with her daughter. Taylor’s mother, Alice, leaves her husband, Harland, because she wants more than a dead marriage, and goes to Las Vegas to help Taylor and Turtle. After giving Taylor her savings, Alice travels to the town of Heaven on Cherokee Nation land to stay with her cousin and investigate her rights with the tribe of her grandmother. Her time on the Cherokee land does not lessen her commitment to her daughter and granddaughter, but does help her understand Annawake’s quest.

Taylor loses much of her self-confidence as she works to support herself and Turtle, never having enough money to pay all the bills or to eat very well. Taylor’s eventual decision to take Turtle to the Cherokee Nation to talk to Annawake reminds her of Dorothy’s being taken to the castle of the witch in Oz (I didn't make this up). The choice seems forced as does much of the action in the novel. For example, there is a side character named Barbie who is obsessed with Barbie dolls; apparently this is intended to provide comic relief, but I couldn't determine what she added to the story. Each scene is presented in the author’s folksy third-person voice, and the view of the action is usually limited to the perspective of one of the main characters; however, I did not appreciate the authorial voice and that made the book just that much more difficult.

Disappointing is an understatement. Much of the plot seemed contrived to me and the authorial voice was off-putting. While the central characters Taylor and her adopted daughter, Turtle were sympathetic, that was about the only thing that kept me reading the book.
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LibraryThing member Kace
ok, I'm rereading this now. Bean Trees and this one, the books I fell in love with in High School. I had it "reviewed" on here before, but think I was on crack or something, cause it only had 2 stars...yeah, it's clearly not that, not then and not now.Kingsolvers voice for me is what made the two
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mentioned books so involving for me. The characters were real and haunting, and I've spent years thinking about the characters, though not obsessively so, because that would be crazy, but in the way that I compare books. For years after reading Bean Trees, and the better Pigs in Heaven, I searched in vain for authors that had Kingsolvers way with pen. Alas it was to no avail. Not even Kingsolver compared with her various other stories. Of course, now I've found some I love and return to again and again. The joys of obsessive reading.
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LibraryThing member lycomayflower
I am always struck by how good Kingsolver is when I start one of her books. I don't know why I forget this in between. In all of Kingsolver's books that I have read she does a great job depicting women and women's community (something I am often impatient with but which rings absolutely true for me
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in her books), and in Pigs in Heaven the juggling of multiple character points of view and of multiple ways of seeing the world--and the way the reader is made to empathize with all of them--is particularly well done.
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LibraryThing member samsheep
Re-reading this after many years - I had forgotten how utterly lovely it was. Magical and uplifting. Barbara Kingsolver is endlessly wonderful....
LibraryThing member wordygirl39
The sequel to the Bean Trees continues the story of Taylor and Turtle, but this book feels richer, more layered. It looks closely at a difficult issue still important in America today: Should we look the other way at cross-cultural adoption if the child will be cared for and loved? Does culture and
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etnicity matter more than love?
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LibraryThing member jtho
I enjoyed the book and really became attached to the characters, but I felt like it was quite slow-moving for the middle section. There wasn't anything in particular that could have been left out, but at one point I felt like I'd read about 75 pages and nothing had really happened. If you haven't
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read any Kingsolver, I would start with The Poisonwood Bible, instead.
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LibraryThing member brsquilt
Quirky characters, interesting premise, nice ending.
LibraryThing member gillis.sarah
While I didn't like this book as much as I enjoyed its prequel ('The Bean Trees'), it was nice to continue with the story of Turtle and learn a bit more about her. She gets a lot more interesting as a character in this book. I also found how I felt about the legal and emotional struggle between
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Turtle's adopted mother and her tribe very interesting.
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LibraryThing member laurie_library
The author is a wonderful storyteller. The stomp dance scene came alive for me.
LibraryThing member oldblack
Another fine Kingsolver story. I initially avoided reading her books, despite recommendations from people I kind-of knew! The reason I avoided them was that they sounded too heavily laden with socio-political messages, and I don't read fiction to be preached at. However, what I've found is that
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this author is remarkably skillful in creating characters and situations with which I could identify and become emotionally involved, despite their apparent distance from my own situation. This story is a classic example. The obvious target audience groups are mothers and native americans, and to neither of which do I belong. Kingsolver sets up a story of Cherokee versus mother, but she does it in such a way that this reader felt equally drawn to both sides. The justice of both the mother's position and the Indian's position is made evident and we can't see how this can resolve satisfactorily. Of course the conclusion doesn't have to be completely satisfactory, because life isn't like that, but nonetheless, Kingsolver's ultimate message is that love does have the power to take us beyond motherhood or genetic ancestry. Yes, the last couple of chapters did move me to tears, but I'm that sort of person I guess. It definitely helped, but wasn't essential, to read "The Bean Trees" first. This was especially true because it set up the (geographic) landscape for me, a non-American. That landscape (both urban and rural) and the way it affects the people's lives is a major issue in these books, I think.
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LibraryThing member butterflybaby
I liked this book. I felt that it was political spin off from the Bean Trees. Taylor and Turtle explore moral and legal issues. Just like the first book Pigs in Heaven really brought the characters to life and was interesting. I would recomend this book.
LibraryThing member LibraryCin
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member jayne_charles
Brilliant, brilliant book. It starts off with a startling array of niceness - nice family, nice lifestyle, a miasma of likeability. The boyfriend in particular is way too good to be true (he actually invites his girlfriend's mother to come and live with them, and appears to welcome the prospect.
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Blokes like that don't exist outside of fiction). The reason for all this likeability becomes clear when it emerges that this book centres around a tug-of-love situation, and ensures that we don't know which side to sympathise with.

Some skilfuly dropped clues ensure that the reader is always one step ahead of the characters and anticipating the next step, and good pacing ensures that it is a while before they catch up, so the suspense is ensured. Like all the other books I have read by this author, the research is thorough without weighing down the plot, and it is compelling, humorous and informative.

I had no idea that this was part of a series, but upon finishing it I discovered 'The Bean Trees' in a second hand shop and found out that it was a prequel to this one, so guess what I read next.
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LibraryThing member readingrat
While it had the same likable characters returning from the Bean Trees and was definitely an enjoyable read, this book fell a little short when it came to capturing the magic its predecessor had.
LibraryThing member angela.vaughn
The Turtle books are some of the sweetest. They pull at your heart strings and really draw you in. Kingsolver has a way with different cultures and sheding light on the customs and people so that even the simplist of people can understand what both sides are trying to bring to the table.
LibraryThing member mashley
A bit predictable, but good characters.
LibraryThing member LDVoorberg
Better than I expected, but a light read chalk FULL of symbols and motifs. A good book for high school level students for that reason. About Taylor and her adopted daughter Turtle (a Cherokee) and Alice, Taylor's mother, and their search for meaningful family and connections. Good introduction to
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Cherokee traditions and history, too (though somewhat idealized). A quick but enjoyable read. Jax is my favourite character and I was disappointed he's not in the end of the book.
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LibraryThing member stevesmits
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
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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".
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LibraryThing member lamericaana
Read this ages ago, don't remember what it's about, but I remember loving it and it turned me on to Barbara Kingsolver (a wonderful thing). Maybe I'll have to go back and re-read it.
LibraryThing member snash
I found this book fun to read with a host of memorable, entertaining characters, most of of whom I liked. It dealt with a difficult dilemma which was perhaps too neatly solved but it made me happy.
LibraryThing member TiffanyAK
I very much enjoyed this book. There is a strong cultural dynamic, as well as the theme of motherhood and fear of loss. The characters are mostly compelling and, while the resolution is all a bit too neat, the story effectively drew me in throughout. Definitely one of the best things I've read this
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year, though, to be fair, the year thus far has been pretty well occupied by assigned readings.
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LibraryThing member ArleenWilliams
A bit disappointing. I enjoyed The Bean Trees more.
LibraryThing member jolee
I actually liked this book better than the first, The Bean Trees. Which was surprising because before I started it my mom had told me she didn't like the sequel as much as the original. Still, it certainly wasn't my favorite Kingsolver. I much prefer The Poisonwood Bible.
LibraryThing member weird_O
[Pigs in Heaven] by Barbara Kingsolver is the sequel to [The Bean Trees]. It's three years later. Turtle does something pretty remarkable that catches the eyes of Oprah Winfrey's minions. She and her mother appear on Oprah's TV show, where Annawake Fourkiller sees them and immediately recognizes
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Turtle as Cherokee. Annawake is Cherokee and a recently minted attorney who gloms onto what she sees as a child improperly separated from the tribe. She feels compelled to interfere with a mother-daughter bond to enforce a tribal bond. She reviews Oklahoma's adoption paperwork and arranges to meet Taylor Greer at her home in Tucson.

Standing in Taylor's kitchen, coffee in hand, Annawake begins their conversation with an admission:

"I'm sorry," she tells Taylor, "I've misled you…I'm not a reporter. I'm an attorney… I work in an office that does a lot of work for the Cherokee Nation. That's what I want to talk with you about. Turtle's adoption might not be valid."
Taylor's cup stops an inch from her lips, and for nearly half a minute she does not appear to breathe.

Annawake tells Taylor of the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was enacted in 1978 because so many Indian kids were being separated from their families and put into non-Indian homes.

"I don't mean to scare you," Annawake says quietly. "But I want you to have some background on the problem. We need to make sure our laws are respected."
Taylor turns around and faces Annawake, her hair wheeling. "I didn't take Turtle from any family, she was dumped on me. Dumped. She'd already lost her family, and she'd been hurt in ways I can't even start to tell you without crying. Sexual ways. Your people let her fall through the crack and she was in bad trouble. She couldn't talk, she didn't walk, she had the personality of—I don't know what. A bruised apple. Nobody wanted her." Taylor's hands are shaking. She crosses her arms in front of her chest and slumps forward a little in the manner of a woman heavily pregnant.
"And now that she's a cute little adorable child and gets famous and goes on television, now you want her back."
"This has nothing to do with Turtle being on television. Except that it brought her to our attention." Annawake looks away and thinks about her tone. Lawyer words will not win any cases in this kitchen. She is not so far from Oklahoma. "Please don't panic. I'm only telling you that your adoption papers may not be valid because you didn't get approval from the tribe. You need that. It might be a good idea to get it."
"And what if they won't give it?"
Annawake can't think of the right answer to that question.
Taylor demands, "How can you possibly think this is in Turtle's best interest?"
"How can you think it's good for a tribe to lose its children!" Annawake is startled by her own anger—she has shot without aiming first. Taylor is shaking her head back and forth, back and forth.
"I'm sorry, I can't understand you. Turtle is my daughter. If you walked in here and asked me to cut off my hand for a good cause, I might think about it. But you don't get Turtle."
"There's the child's best interest and the tribe's best interest, and I'm trying to think of both things."
"Horseshit." Taylor turns away, facing the window.

No sooner does the dust settle behind Annawake Fourkiller's departing rental car than Taylor is packing her car and departing Tucson with Turtle, the beginning of an odyssey to Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and on to the Pacific Northwest. At each stop, Taylor's resources and options dwindle.

This confrontation between maternal commitment and tribal rights is the linchpin of the plot. Yes, we read about Lucky Buster and his mother; about Barbie, who's obsessed with the outfits marketed for the doll she's named and modelled herself after; about Steve Kant, the wheelchair-bound air traffic controller. There's Gundi, Taylor's landlady, a quirky artist who's as likely as not to roam about her rental cottages in the buff. These are rich and entertaining characters. Kingsolver's a master of character and dialogue.

In the end, I felt disappointed because while the plot rummaged through the difficult, divisive, often (usually?) sorrowful issues of heritage, family, parenthood, and adoption, the characters were contrived and the plot manipulated to produce a heartwarming, everybody-wins finish. The solution in such circumstances is to have distant, dormant, unlikely-but-damned-convenient family relationships.

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LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — Fiction — 1993)
Western Heritage Award (Western Novel — 1994)
Reading the West Book Award (Winner — Fiction — 1994)


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