Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver.

(I’m still on my Barbara Kingsolver kick, apparently…)

As I mentioned earlier, I read Kingsolver’s debut novel The Bean Trees as required summer reading when I was between grades in high school.  That story was about a woman named Taylor and the child thrusted upon her, and how they two of them come to understand that the meaning of the word family is extremely pliable. Pigs in Heaven is a sequel to that story; in this novel, Taylor and the child, nicknamed Turtle, literally go on the run in order to preserve that same family.

Like The Bean Trees before it, Pigs in Heaven spends a majority of its time flexing the definition of the words family and community.  Naturally, Taylor and Turtle inhabit the spot directly at the center of the novel, with characters as varied as husband-fleeing grandmothers, cheating musicians and fervent activists spinning around them like electrons circling a nucleus.

While the story is both interesting and well-written, I couldn’t help but feel that Kingsolver is covering familiar ground.  Of course it’s gratifying to learn how Turtle and Taylor’s lives have unfolded together in the years between one novel and the next, but at the same time I found myself wondering, Is this a dead horse?  Could — and should — the books have been combined into one larger work?  Perhaps reading the two back-to-back wasn’t the best course of action, as it makes Pigs in Heaven seem overly redundant.  Does that mean that these are insignificant works?  Not in the least.  It just means that a breather between the pair would have been a good idea.


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