A Novel about Compassion and Friendship #Thursday Book Feature

The Bean Trees

by Barbara Kingsolver

Copyright 1988


A couple of years after graduating from high school, Taylor leaves her rural Kentucky hometown, driving a beat-up old car, with no particular destination in mind. In a small Oklahoma town, after getting her car repaired, someone leaves an Indian baby girl on her front seat. Taylor decides to keep her and names her Turtle.

She and Turtle arrive in Tucson, Arizona, on four flat tires and settle there. She finds a place to live and makes friends. The book has other sub-plots involving her housemate, two elderly neighbors, and a refugee couple living above the tire shop where she works.

I could relate to this story because I did some of my growing up in Tucson, Arizona. The author’s descriptions of a picnic and visit to a local zoo remind me of similar trips I took with my family in the area when I was a child. Although this book was published in 1988, it reflects the plight of immigrants today, which is, I believe, much worse than it was back then. The Bean Trees is Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel, and I’ll probably read more of her work.


New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.


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Memoir Depicts Empowerment through Travel

It’s Already Tomorrow Here: Never Estimate the Power of Running Away

By Lucetta Zaytoun

Copyright 2016


After leaving an abusive marriage with her two young children, Lucetta Zaytoun opened a bakery in North Carolina. She then met and married her second husband, a widower with four children, gave up her bakery, and became a stay-at-home wife and mother, happy to help raise six children and adopting a boy from Africa. In 2010, after her second husband left her for another woman, the children grown and scattered across the country, inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, she put everything she owned in storage, sold her car, shut down her phone, and traveled for a year in an attempt to find herself.

She spent the first three months in Costa Rica, learning Spanish and becoming certified to teach English as a second language. After a brief visit home, she spent another three months in Tanzania, Africa, volunteering with a women’s empowerment center. She spent the rest of the year traveling through Africa and Asia before flying to Hawaii to meet her daughter.

Along the way, she describes such experiences as living with a host family in Costa Rica, camping in the jungle in Tanzania, kissing a giraffe in Kenya, bungee jumping and mountain climbing in South Africa, and spending time with her son in Thailand. While relating her adventures in Africa, she flashes back to her childhood during the 1970’s when schools were desegregated and reflects on that, compared to Apartheid. During one instance when she’s comforting an African woman with a dead baby, she shares her own experience with losing a child during her first marriage. In the end, she describes getting off a plane in Hawaii, where a customs official welcomed her home.

I was drawn to this book by an interview with the author in the March issue of Poets and Writers. I was lucky to find a recording of her reading this book on Audible. I enjoyed hearing her relate her adventures. She made me laugh one minute and angry the next.

However, I couldn’t help wondering how long this would go on. What if she put off deciding what to do with the rest of her life indefinitely? Would she travel the world forever in search of herself? It was a relief when she landed in Hawaii.

I would like to have known more. According to her website, Lucetta Zaytoun is a certified life coach, but how did she get to that point after landing in Hawaii? Did she immediately return home or travel some more? An epilog would have answered many questions. Otherwise, this is a great book for anyone in the mood for some armchair traveling and perhaps a little soul searching.


Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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