Pigs in Heaven

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

PIGS IN HEAVEN is an unusual and provocative sequel that calls into question the moral certainties of its predecessor. In THE BEAN TREES (1988), as the plucky young protagonist Taylor Greer drives southwest from Kentucky, she has a baby girl thrust upon her during a car repair stop on Cherokee land in Oklahoma. In this earlier novel, Taylor’s act of taking and raising the girl seems unquestionably heroic, since the girl’s mother is dead, Taylor has no desire to become a mother, and particularly since it is revealed later in the novel that the girl had been sexually abused.

PIGS IN HEAVEN, on the other hand, suggests that perhaps Turtle (as Taylor has named her) needs to be returned to her Oklahoma tribe. Annawake Fourkiller, a young Cherokee lawyer whose spirit matches Taylor’s own, is on a crusade to test the legality of adoptions that have taken a third of all Indian children out of their tribes and into non-Indian homes.

Kingsolver’s achievement in the novel is to develop the conflict between mother love and tribal community on a three-dimensional human level. The reader comes to understand many political andcultural issues as well as to know and sympathize with many individuals on both sides of the conflict. In addition, Kingsolver’s sharp ear for dialogue, her eye for revealing cultural detail, and her keen sense of humor all enliven a novel that is abundantly populated with entertaining characters. These characters include Taylor’s sardonic mother Alice; a young woman named Barbie, who tries to model her life on the popular children’s doll; Taylor’s unconventional boyfriend Jax, who plays in a rock band; and Alice’s childhood friend Sugar, who introduces...

(The entire section is 695 words.)