I’ve been reading a bit of fiction lately. I recently finished reading The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. My book club read Kingsolver’s non-fiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I thought I would read one of her works of fiction on my own. The Bean Trees was Kingsolver’s first published novel, and apparently it has become a standard in college English classrooms.
The Bean Trees is set in the mid-1970’s in Arizona, and is sort of a historical fiction novel, although not exactly. It has quite vibrant characterizations, an unusual but very believable story, and the main heroine is a spunky, likeable girl. I’m not as much of a liberal as Kingsolver is, so her arguing for a cause by presenting an extreme example made me roll my eyes a bit. But overall, I really enjoyed the book, more so than I was expecting. Kingsolver’s writing style definitely drew me into the story right from the start, and it had me rooting for the heroine the entire story.
Kingsolver’s most famous fiction novel seems to be The Poisonwood Bible; I may give that a try later this summer.
While perusing books on childbirth on Amazon a few weeks ago, I heard of a novel called The Birth House by Ami McKay. It sounded interesting to me, so I put it on hold through my library and picked it up a week ago. I’ve already skimmed through the entire novel and am even more intrigued, so I am now going through and actually reading each chapter. The novel is essentially a historical fiction about the state of childbirth in the 1910’s in America, just as doctors were attempting to make inroads into childbirth not only by advertising “pain-free childbirths” but also by criticizing and attempting to marginalize midwifery. The novel is a bit more “earthy” than I was expecting; the characters are quite human and sinful, and Christianity plays no role, positive or negative, in the story. But, that said, it is fascinating to me to get an idea of what childbirth was like before doctors came into the picture. It is also interesting to see why midwives were often thought of as witches and seen as having magical powers. I’m looking forward to legitimately finishing the story over the next few weeks.
Also during my recent library trip, I noticed the book The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff on display. It was recommended highly by a friend of mine, so I grabbed it. If I have my facts correct, it’s a historical fiction novel about the 19th wife of a prominent Mormon leader in the mid 1800’s who left her husband and went public about the abuses that were going on in the Mormon church. I’m looking forward to reading it, too.
Finally, on my recent trip to Wisconsin, I picked up the book Christy by Catherine Marshall from a used bookseller. I remembered watching the TV show in the early 1990’s, but I had never read the book. I still haven’t read the entire book, but I have read various parts and chapters here and there. The Christianity espoused in the book is rather vague and mystic, but the stories of life in Appalachia are fascinating. Those stories are based on fact, so it seems that life was really somewhat like that for people in that part of the country in the early part of the 20th century. That kind of life seems so bizarre to me – how could people actually live with the deprivations and the little material goods and horrible health practices? And how did they ever survive?
I’m a big believer in non-fiction; I love learning more through reading. But, I must say, I’m enjoying my fiction reading immensely! 🙂