The third novel by Barbara Kingsolver, Pigs in Heaven is a warm, humorous, and thought-provoking story of the conflict between an adoptive mother and a Native American tribe over the destiny of an adopted Cherokee girl. The novel covers a time span of about six months and is divided into three parts: “Spring,” “Summer,” and “Fall.” Generally, Kingsolver uses a third-person-limited point of view. 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 five main characters, Alice, Taylor, Jax, Annawake, or Cash. At times, however, Kingsolver presents a scene from the perspective of a minor character (such as Annawake’s coworkers Jinny Redbow and Franklin Turnbo) or briefly enters into the consciousness of a second character (such as Turtle or Lucky Buster) in a scene that is described mostly from a major character’s point of view.
Pigs in Heaven is an unusual and provocative sequel that calls into question the moral certitudes of Kingsolver’s first novel, The Bean Trees (1988). In that book, as the plucky young protagonist Taylor Greer drives southwest from Kentucky, she has a three-year-old girl thrust upon her during a stop on Cherokee land in Oklahoma. In this earlier novel, Taylor’s act of accepting and rearing the girl seems unquestionably heroic, since the girl’s mother is dead, Taylor has no desire to acquire a child, and, particularly, since it is revealed later in the novel that the girl has been sexually abused. Much of The Bean Trees focuses on the special, nurturing love that develops between Taylor and the Cherokee girl, whom Taylor names Turtle because the girl attaches herself to her new mother with the tenacity of a turtle’s jaws.
Pigs in Heaven, on the other hand, presents a different and unexpected perspective on the situation: that it might be better for Turtle (now six years old) to be taken from Taylor (who has...
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