The novel’s title refers to the name that Turtle uses for wisteria: Their seed pods resemble beans. When Turtle finally begins to talk, she does so in a vocabulary rich with vegetable and other plant names. Organic metaphors can be found throughout the book. For example, a large, unstructured garden behind Mattie’s tire shop spills over into Lee Sing’s yard—just as the characters form friendships without regard for artificially constructed boundaries. Relationships grow naturally out of mutual needs and interests. The final chapter, “Rhizobia,” refers to microscopic organisms that aid in fertilizing wisteria; as Taylor explains it to Turtle, “There’s a whole invisible system for helping out the plant. . . . It’s just the same as with people”—on their own, wisteria vines “would just barely get by,” but “put them together” with rhizobia (or their friends) and “they make miracles.” Mutual support and interdependence allow all the characters to flourish in ways that they could not on their own.
With the exception of the second and fourth chapters, which are told in a third-person omniscient point of view and focus on Lou Ann Ruiz before she meets Taylor, the novel is told from Taylor’s first-person point of view. Taylor is thus both outsider and central focus; as a transplanted Kentuckian living in Tucson, she meets people different from any she knew back home—especially those from other ethnic groups. As a working-class mother in a community of other working-class women, however, she shares their concerns and their struggles.
Taylor’s first-person narration is one of the many examples of the novel’s focus on language: Her Southern idioms seem “poetic” to Estevan, while his precise and grammatically perfect English seems beautiful and formal to Taylor. The early chapters have titles that seem at first nonsensical—“New Year’s Pig,” “Jesus Is Lord Used Tires,” “Tug Fork Water”—but whose meanings are revealed in the chapters...
(The entire section is 820 words.)
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