Pigs in Heaven

By Barbara Kingsolver

59,008 ratings - 3.96* vote

Mother and adopted daughter, Taylor and Turtle Greer, are back in this spellbinding sequel about family, heartbreak and love.Six-year-old Turtle Greer witnesses a freak accident at the Hoover Dam during a tour of the Grand Canyon with her guardian, Taylor. Her insistence on what she has seen, and her mother's belief in her, lead to a man's dramatic rescue. The mother and a Mother and adopted daughter, Taylor and Turtle Greer, are back in this spellbinding sequel about family,

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Book details

Paperback, 343 pages
1994 by Faber and Faber

(first published 1993)

Original Title
Pigs in Heaven
ISBN
0571171788 (ISBN13: 9780571171781)
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Allison

The funniest part about my adoration of Barbara Kingsolver is that my favorite book of hers is not The Poisonwood Bible. In fact, of the three books of hers I have read now, that is probably my least favorite. Prodigal Summer still probably ranks as my favorite, followed very closely by this one, Pigs in Heaven. My biggest disappointment upon finishing this novel occurred when I went back to the library to find another Kingsolver book and discovered that the only one they had was actually a prequel to this novel! I hadn't known The Bean Trees came first in the telling of these character's stories, and I was tremendously disappointed to find out that I already knew the story of The Bean Trees without having read it in Kingsolver's vivid, elegant prose.
What I love about her writing is that it is so beautiful without trying to be so. You get a stunning picture of southern and midwestern landscapes and a true sense of people's lifestyles and ethnicities without her, as an author, shoving these facts and descriptions in your face. Somehow, she blends them into the language so seamlessly and so convincingly that you end up feeling them rather than knowing them. This is the mark of a truly successful writer, as far as I am concerned. And the mark of a truly successful book is one in which I do not find myself wanting to edit as I read. That is not something she achieved with The Poisonwood Bible--I badly wanted to edit the ending of that novel--but Pigs in Heaven kept me page-turning relentlessly without one critique, in spite of my ability to predict the ending.
Now there was a real accomplishment, because I hate to predict endings. But somehow, Kingsolver and those pigs pulled it off. I look forward to her next novel.

Lyn

Excellent.

The story of a Cherokee child's adoptive mother's struggles to keep her daughter when the Nation wants the girl back.

No real villains here except the conflicting needs of multiple characters and for the sad but resourceful history. Also a vehicle to explore the Native American culture in contrast to and as a component of American culture.

Students of history can see similarities between the Cherokee and Scotch/Irish who ironically and tragically supplanted them in the Appalachians. Labeled as feminist by most critics, this reads like an entertaining tale told by a cool aunt. Kingsolver is a masterful writer and makes frequent use of simile, metaphor and subtle allegory that is almost Shakespearean in design. Dickens influence is present also.

A fundamentally good book: a good story told by a good storyteller.

*** It is a component of a great book that you will think about it again, even years later. There is a scene where the little girl sees her grandfather again after years that still gives me goosebumps. Great book.

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Nicole R

I just couldn't get into this continuation of Taylor and Turtle's story despite how much I loved meeting them in The Bean Trees. Pigs in Heaven catches up with the ladies three years after the close of the last book. They are happy and living in Tuscon but when they take a trip to Hoover Dam their lives change. The Cherokee Nation learns of Taylor's not-quite-legal adoption of Turtle and cites the Indian Child Welfare Act to request her be returned to the tribe, sending Taylor into a panic. Taylor must choose between giving up the daughter she loves and knowing that she can't provide Turtle with the culture she is entitled to.

Pigs in Heaven lacked the charm and heart that The Bean Trees had; I understand that Taylor didn't want to lose Turtle but her actions just didn't jibe with the headstrong and independent personality that was developed in the first book, her actions definitely weren't in the best interest for Turtle, and it was a bit melodramatic for me. I wasn't really a fan of Jax or Annawake either, I just couldn't relate to them very much; Jax was borderline weird and I'm totally not into the emotional, insecure, musician types and Annawake viewed things as black or white but she got better as the story went on. The best characters were definitely Cash and Alice, two older people who had lived through their share of heartaches and we're even aware their lives were missing something.

Overall, if you really like The Bean Trees it might just be best to stop when you're ahead.

Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

I have a theory about the genesis of this novel. By the time she wrote her first novel, the beloved The Bean Trees, it’s clear that Kingsolver was already deeply invested in social justice issues. But she missed one when her protagonist, a young woman named Taylor, traveled through Cherokee tribal lands in Oklahoma just long enough to unwittingly rescue a battered native toddler dumped on her by a frightened aunt. And when Taylor returned, with the best of intentions, it was to fraudulently adopt the child without the knowledge of the tribe.

As I envision events, a Cherokee reader talked to Kingsolver about this, pointing out that Cherokee have large extended families who would miss the child; that after a long history of genocide and other abuses at the hands of white America, including the removal of children, tribes need to hang onto their kids if they are to survive (hence the Indian Child Welfare Act, which among other things prohibits outside adoptions without the tribe’s consent); and that Taylor, who is physically and culturally white despite a Cherokee great-grandparent, is unequipped to teach Turtle about her heritage or how to deal with racism.

So Kingsolver, as we all should do when confronted with our oversights, recognized the problem and set out to fix it. And this sequel was born.

Pigs in Heaven picks up three years after the end of The Bean Trees. Turtle gets her fifteen minutes of fame when she witnesses an accident, and a newly-minted Cherokee lawyer named Annawake – who has a personal stake in ICWA – hears her story and realizes something is fishy. After a visit from Annawake, Taylor panics and takes off with Turtle, but her mother, Alice – just out of a brief and unsatisfying marriage – takes a different tack, going to stay with a relative on tribal lands in hopes of amicably resolving the problem and getting to know Turtle’s extended family.

I actually liked this book better than The Bean Trees; Kingsolver has clearly matured as an author. The plot is more focused and cohesive and flows smoothly, without ever feeling slow. It follows several major characters while keeping everything moving and the reader eager to know what will happen next. It examines the central issues from all sides and with empathy for everyone involved, all of whom make mistakes but are trying to do the best they can for Turtle. Yes, it can be predictable, but in this case I don’t see that as a flaw; this story is built not on suspense but on family relationships, and I enjoyed sinking into the characters’ journey and guessing at where it would lead them. The writing style is good and endows the book with warmth and wisdom.

Meanwhile, Kingsolver seems to have done her research, or rather the friends she credits in the acknowledgments did a thorough job of educating her. I read a legit Cherokee book right after this in part to check her facts, which checked out. But there are also subtle things, like the story that’s told to two different people and slightly differently each time, that readers familiar with Cherokee culture will likely appreciate. If anything, life on tribal lands seems a little idealized – there’s a lot of family values, community and tradition, with social problems acknowledged but kept out of sight – though much of this is related through Alice’s point-of-view, and I suspect that her experiences as a visitor to tribal lands were, reasonably enough, based on Kingsolver’s.

My two issues with the book aren’t with the writing. One is that there are several continuity errors between the first book and this one. The legal first name (April) that Taylor gave Turtle on adoption vanishes; Alice and Taylor’s Cherokee ancestor changes from a grandfather to a grandmother (significant because clan passes through the female line); Taylor’s father goes from a mystery man about whom Alice would only say that he was nobody Taylor knew to an ex-husband about whom she’s not reluctant to speak when necessary. The other is more about judging other people’s parenting than anything else. Taylor makes several questionable choices that are never called out in the narrative, from moving herself and Turtle in with a boyfriend about whom she’s not that serious, to telling the real story of her abandonment on national TV – which is not only stupid because it’s inconsistent with official records, but publicly telling the story in front of Turtle and allowing it to be made light of seems hurtful. But real people aren't perfect, so characters shouldn't be either.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, which tells a compelling story about contemporary issues, with good writing and populated by sympathetic characters. I read it quickly and was fully engaged with the story and characters, which doesn't happen as often as I'd like these days. I recommend it, whether or not you read The Bean Trees first.

jess

After my intense experience with The Bean Trees, there was no question that I would follow up with Pigs In Heaven as quickly as the library could deliver it to me. The audiobook is read by C J Crit, the same person who read The Bean Trees audiobook. That continuity was nice - it really felt like volumes one and two of the Taylor & Turtle chronicles. While I was relieved to have more of Turtle's story, and feel some kind of resolution of their family's story, I can readily admit that I preferred The Bean Trees, although only a smidge. BT felt more like an unexpected gift, unwrapped carefully and totally surprising. PIH felt more formulaic and a little too "gotcha!" But it's a fantastic read if you can forgive the semi-contrived plot points.

The language in this book is beautiful, in the way that Barbara Kingsolver calls out the most extraordinary visuals and metaphors. Barbara Kingsolver writes sentences like Storm clouds with high pompadours have congregated on the western horizon offering the hope of cooler weather, but only the hope. There are a million more examples, but it would really be better if you read the book & found them yourself, catching your own breath when her words shift your perception.

Also, this is an epic roadtrip story, one of the best type of stories you can read. Additionally, the characters spend a ton of time in Washington and Oklahoma, two places I have major soft spots for in literature.... since I live/d in both.

Renee Porter

PIGS IN HEAVEN is the sequel to Barbara Kingsolver's book THE BEAN TREES. The novel continues the story of the Cherokee child named "Turtle" and her adoptive mother Taylor Greer. In this sequel, we find Turtle and Taylor living together in Tucson along with Taylor's boyfriend, a life that is not quite what would be called the most perfect of environments. They live in poverty, barely making ends meet. Although Taylor does her best, her income is limited, but she gives Turtle a lot of love, and along with her boyfriend, Turtle has a new family. Turtle seems happy, and after years of being mute due to a history of abuse, she's learned to talk, and all seems to be going well.

Unfortunately, Cherokee attorney Annawake Fourkiller accidentally discovers the existence of 6-year-old Turtle, and learns that Taylor had illegally adopted Turtle outside the Cherokee nation. Annawake is ready to rectify this problem. As far as she's concerned, Turtle needs to be raised by the Cherokee. Taylor, however, does not see this, and does what she can to protect her child.

Turtle and Taylor are now on the run, fleeing from their home in Tucson and leaving the boyfriend behind. They live from motel room to motel room, eating what they can afford. It gets to a point where Taylor does not know what to do next, in fear that she and Turtle will be discovered and eventually Turtle will be taken away from her. Yet, she wonders if what she is doing to Turtle is the right thing to do. When Alice Greer, Taylor's mother, gets involved, the story takes a surprising turn, and soon Turtle's biological family gets involved as well. I was glued to the book, wanting to know whether Taylor gets to keep Turtle, or is told to hand over the child to the Cherokee Nation.

Many important issues are brought up in PIGS IN HEAVEN. Should a child of American Indian heritage be allowed to live away from his or her tribe? Should the child be allowed to be raised among the white people, never knowing his true heritage? Turtle was completely happy with Taylor, and she did not know any other mother or life. The issue of whether it was a moral crime to separate the two is a big theme, with a fitting conclusion at the end of the story.

I really enjoyed this book, having already read THE BEAN TREES, which I loved as much as this one. Both stories center on the welfare of Turtle, an endearing little Indian girl that will capture your heart. However, after reading PIGS IN HEAVEN, I doubted that what Taylor did was right. It actually gave me a different perspective on the first book.

The two books should be read in sequence, but reading one or the other will not detract from the enjoyment of either

Kendra

I'm not sure what to think of this continuation of The Bean Trees. I have loved most of Barbara Kingsolver's books but I wasn't so crazy about this one. I still love her style of writing and I think that is the only thing that kept me moving through the book. The big downfall is that I didn't care for the story...in The Bean Trees, the main character, Taylor, finds a three year old American Indian child in her car as she is driving cross country. She ends up adopting the little girl. In Pigs In Heaven, the young girl (Turtle) is now 6yo and through a series of very improbable circumstances, the Cherokee Nation starts investigating in order to take Turtle away from Taylor. Most of the situations through the book would be hard to come by on their own but to have more and more of them keep happening...made the book very fake and very unrealistic. I kept saying, "oh give me a break". I’m not sure I’d recommend this one except that it is a quick and easy read…and a continuation of a story you may have already started.

Heidi Schmidt

I'm a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver. As usual, this is many intertwined stories in one. This centers on the question of what defines a family? A horribly abused and orphaned Cherokee child is given to a stranger passing through a parking lot, and years later, the adoption is called into question. The Cherokee Nation must approve all adoptions of Cherokee children to non-Cherokee parents. So who's right? The adoptive mother who has loved and healed this child, or the nation that understands her history? It seems an obvious choice at first, but the answers seem less clear as we see more from the perspective of the young Cherokee lawyer pursuing the case. On one side, it's nature vs. nurture, but it's never a purely theoretical debate. You really come to question what is actually best for this child. In a good way.

Jonas

I am so very grateful to have rediscovered Barbara Kingsolver. Her voice is timeless and her message resonates in our world today. Pigs in Heaven is a story of family and the extent people will go to maintain their family. Taylor’s adoptive daughter is a Cherokee Indian. A young lawyer, Annawake, challenges the adoption stating that according to law Cherokee children cannot be adopted without consent from the Cherokee Nation. This is an important book and a well-written story.

The narrative sheds light on the Indian side of history that we are not taught in school-genocide, forced assimilation, separating families, and boarding schools. We may know about the Trail of Tears, but not all of the trauma and horrors born from that event. In a time when statues of Columbus are being taken down and Americans are beginning to honestly open their eyes to examine the past, Pigs in Heaven gives us a fictitious glimpse into the past and the realities of Native people today. I bought the book on 7-31-01 and finished it on 7-1-20. It was meant to sit on my shelf for 19 years. The right book finds you at the right time. I hope a copy of Pigs in Heaven finds its way to you.

Eliece

A sequel to The Bean Trees and I actually liked it better which is rare for me. The story centers around Taylor's illegal adoption of Turtle and the Cherokee nations attempt to get Turtle back. It studies the question of "best for the individual" vs "best for the group" and acknowledges both sides of the problem. The characters are very well written and developed. Barbara Kingsolver really takes you into the heart of her story. I also liked the exploration of what makes a family and how people need other people to survive.(minus a star for some rough language and a weird random scene with Jax in the middle, but then I had to give another star back because it is just so good.)

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