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Book Review: Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver (5/5)

27 Mar

I read the first book in this duet a few years ago with some ladies from work and I ended up loving it. I was a bit skeptical going in, but I came out gushing about Kingsolver’s writing. I saw the sequel at a used book sale and picked it up with no idea when I’d read it. I finally got around to it on audio and I’m so glad I have.

Cover image via Goodreads

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

Other books by Kingsolver reviewed on this blog:

The Bean Trees (and Book Club Discussion)

Summary from Goodreads:

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 adopted daughter duo soon become nationwide heroes – even landing themselves a guest appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show. But Turtle’s moment of celebrity draws her into a conflict of historic proportions stemming right back to her Cherokee roots. The crisis quickly envelops not only Turtle and her guardian, but everyone else who touches their lives in a complex web connecting their future with their past.

Embark on a unforgettable road trip from rural Kentucky and the urban Southwest to Heaven, Oklahoma, and the Cherokee Nation, testing the boundaries of family and the many separate truths about the ties that bind.

Kingsolver has an amazing gift to write. She makes me want to go back to Arizona in a heartbeat, to start with. She also creates characters you can see so clearly you’d think you met them. Jax is just incredible. Her dialogue is so realistic it’s scary and her descriptions are simply breathtaking. The plot in this one was a perfect continuation of the first book in the series and I’m glad Kingsolver revisited these characters and their unique relationships.

Barbie was the only character who didn’t feel believable to me. I’m sure there are people like Barbie, but she stuck out too much against these down-to-Earth characters who were so gritty and true and real. Alice, Taylor, and Jax were so easy to picture and relate to, I loved it. I wish Jax had played a bigger part in the book, but the Greer women didn’t need men to be happy so he wasn’t a big part of the change going on in Turtle’s life. Kingsolver’s ability to create a character is commendable and I really enjoyed seeing these people again.

I liked Alice best. I felt Taylor didn’t get a chance to shine in this book like she did before because her circumstances were so dire that she was scrambling and not reflecting her character. Alice, on the other hand, really shared her personality and her strength. She struck out on her own with a secret mission that was dear to her and she fell in love along the way. I loved that part of the story and learning about Alice was a wonderful time.

Even though I’ve never been in similar circumstances to these characters, they were so human that I felt I related to them well. They were well-rounded and their ways of thinking weren’t distorted to make the story work or build tension. They were logical. They made the same decisions I would have made if I were in their places. I also appreciated that there wasn’t anything they didn’t guess at that I saw coming as a reader. That sometimes makes me think poorly of a character and I’m glad I didn’t see the big twist coming in this book.

Barbara Kingsolver
Image via Appalachian Heritage.

I appreciated the time Taylor spent on the run most. It was a nice nod toward Kingsolver’s views of poverty in America without being heavy-handed. It was nice to see Taylor miss Jax, too. It was subtle, but it kept Jax in the picture and develop their relationship. Taylor was really creative in how she made ends meet and I applauded her for it. I thought the contrast between the two men she dated was a great subtlety, too.

I didn’t like what Jax did. I understand that it made them closer in the end, but it bothered me that he would fall into bed with someone else so quickly and be thinking of Taylor while it happened. It would have been easier to read if he’d been mad at her, which he might have been, but never thought or said. He clearly felt abandoned but never talked about it. I’m glad to know things will work out in the end, but I wish they didn’t have to get so messy first.

My audiobook was narrated by C.J. Critt. I liked her narration a lot but the voice she used for Turtle bothered me. If it hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t have a bad thing to say. She was able to use a lot of different voices for the characters and I didn’t think any of them were particularly offensive (which I have before). The one for Alice made me smile.

The definition of family is put to the test in this book. Turtle says at one point that she doesn’t have a real family. She has their friends back in Tuscon, her grandma, and Barbie but she doesn’t see that as a family. When we find out about her family, the decision on who she belongs with is really murky. I liked the ending we got, but it was a bit convenient.

Writer’s Takeaway: There was nothing particularly memorable about the plot of this book. What made it so good and so memorable was the characters and the way Kingsolver writes. I love Taylor and Alice. Jax and Barbie made me smile. And the way Kingsolver described the setting, emotions, and the small moments people shared was incredible. Taking time to get the right metaphor is worth it if you can get an output anywhere close to Kingsolver.

I adored this book and these awesome characters. Five out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.


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Related Posts:
Pigs in Heaven – by Barbara Kingsolver (1993) | alwaysreading1
Barbara Kingsolver: Her Life, Her Works & Her Words | Learn More Every Day
Let’s Discuss – Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver | A Morose Bookshelf
BONUS BOOK: Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver | The Banned Book Brigade
Book Review: Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver | redheaded wolf