A first novel written in the primitive prose of a primitive segment of American society--the rural underclass that flies beneath the radar of "normal" American society. The Beans are the people whose places we drive by and shake our heads--an old house trailer, a pickup on blocks with the wheels missing, a rusty old wringer washer abandoned on a sagging porch, chickens and naked children in the yard.... "Beans" is a gritty and disturbing portrait of a class most of us refuse to acknowledge, written by an author who lived what she writes about.
If you're a person who thinks "politically correct" is a joke, you will laugh like crazy reading this book. We start with a young girl and her father in bed together, seemingly innocent, with the grandma showing up and marching her granddaughter to her own room, telling her she must stay there and miss supper because "The Lord's good meat and tatahs ain't for no dirty little girls." We laugh at poor people a lot, including a woman who seems to be retarded but keeps getting pregnant with no daddy in sight! I understand that it was a New York Times Best Seller, but I don't understand how or why. This was definitely not my cup of tea. In fairness, I stopped reading after 2 chapters, but that's because I could see no way for it to get good enough to make up for how painful those first 2 chapters were to read.
This book is an attempt to show those who have never known [or even seen] the lives of people some would term "unfortunate" and others simply disdain, and to show that THESE PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE. Being poor does not mean that one cannot live with dignity, or honesty, or humor. Being poor does mean that these people are often forced to live in a society that demeans them, insults them, and often forces them into places where they are regarded as nothing but yesterday's garbage.
Let there be no mistake; The Beans are with us, and are not about to go away anytime soon, nor should they. If we have eyes to read and lips to read aloud the story of The Beans, we just might realize that they have much to teach us about truth, honor, respect, and love.
I understand that many people will not understand how on earth I can make this statement because I understand that many people prefer to look for the tawdry and speciousness in environments that they find uncomfortable or even unbelievable.
But this is above all a book of hope. It shows us that everyone lives a life of worth and influence, even if at times some of these "everyones" live lives that are in large part cruel and uncaring. And in that is the challenge of this book; to look below the surface and to see that all of us are part of the Bean family, and that we should value that relationship.
This book is an amazing literary achievement, and this is a statement that I never make lightly -- even if the author happens to be a friend. So read it and try to let its power and honesty confer those qualities in abundance in your lives. You may not find them in your first reading of the book, but trust me -- they're there.
This is a peek inside the lives of people who "live poor" and live differently than most of our experiences.
I read the book for the first time many years ago and it rocked me back on my heels. Very powerful portrayal of a clan with minimal education and low job skills.