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Bean Trees (Kingsolver) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions 
Kingsolver on The Bean Trees

I always think of a first novel as something like this big old purse you've been carrying around your whole life, throwing in ideas, characters, and all the things that have ever struck you as terribly important. One day,for whatever reason, you just have to dump that big purse out and there lies this pile of junk. You start picking through it, and assembling it into what you hope will be a statement of your life's great themes. That's how it was for me. It probably wasn't until midway through the writing that I had a grasp of the central question: What are the many ways, sometimes hidden and under-ground ways, that people help themselves and each other survive hard times?

1. The Bean Trees deals with the theme of being an outsider. In what ways are various characters outsiders? What does this suggest about what it takes to be an insider? How does feeling like an outsider affect one's life?

2. How and why do the characters change, especially Lou Ann, Taylor, and Turtle?

3. In many ways, the novel is "the education of Taylor Greer." What does she learn about human suffering? about love?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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