Pigs in Heaven (1993)

by Barbara Kingsolver

Pigs in Heaven, the sequel to Barbara Kingsolver’s heartwarming first novel, The Bean Trees, starts three years after Taylor Greer adopted a girl who was dropped on her passenger seat as she drove through the Cherokee Indian reservation in Oklahoma. Taylor and Turtle, named for her tenacious grip, live in Tucson with Taylor’s musician boyfriend. Considering that she had been abused and abandoned in infancy, Turtle is doing well, and she and Taylor have a strong bond.

Their happiness is disrupted, however, when Turtle makes news. She has saved a man’s life by reporting a freak accident that only she witnessed. Oprah Winfrey invites Turtle and Taylor on to her show, which is seen by a Cherokee Nation attorney. The activist attorney starts looking into whether the adoption of Turtle violated the Indian Child Welfare Act. When Taylor learns of the investigation, she goes on the run with Turtle.

Isn’t staying with Taylor, the mother to whom she is attached, the best thing for Turtle? It would seem so except that Turtle would be deprived of contact with her heritage and stigmatized growing up in white society. The continuity of the tribe is also at stake. Kingsolver does a good job of balancing the opposite claims for Turtle. The moral dilemma of family love versus tribal justice is handled with intelligence and open-mindedness. Kingsolver resolves the complex predicament without selling out either side, making for a warm and satisfying reader experience.


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