Book Review: Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven

Posted January 9, 2013 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven

Pigs in Heaven

on 1994 and has 343 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

As Newsweek says, “A novel full of miracles.” Although, I had my doubts! In 1993, Pigs in Heaven won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction.

My Take

It took some 58 pages before I got into it. It’s a slow-moving, meandering story that takes its time to set up everyone’s background, and it just took Kingsolver that long before she got the hook in.

While telling this tale of a strong woman and her equally strong daughter, Kingsolver manages to include a telling history of the Trail of Tears and all that the Cherokee accomplished until the federal government finally managed to finish the job of destroying them.

What they can’t destroy, no matter how hard they try, is the sense of family. We need more of this in all our lives. Family that blurs the lines of who a child answers to. Blurs the lines of who they can love, who they must hate. I heard the stories of how my farther-back maternal side was with all the bickering and meanness. I’d rather go the Cherokee way, with love and respect.

I love it that Turtle believes the Mutant Ninja Turtles live in the sewers. I also love that Taylor backs her daughter up. She doesn’t let the authorities override her or disrespect her daughter.

I do understand Annawake’s point, but then there’s Turtle’s happiness. Her sense of safety that must be considered, and I don’t think Annawake takes this into consideration. With the things Annawake says to Taylor, how else is Taylor to interpret what she’s saying? Sounds to me like she plans to tear Turtle away from her mother!

Oh man, I did like Cash’s proposal! It was so perfect.

Have patience. Take your time. You will enjoy the ride.

The Story

It’s Turtle’s observations at Hoover Dam that sets it all off. Seeing Lucky disappear and then her mother’s insistence on getting someone to pay attention are what get them to Oprah Winfrey. A notoriety that brings them to the notice of Annawake Fourkiller, who is vehement about Cherokee children NEVER being removed from the reservation. Or their families.

There is no way that Annawake is leaving a Cherokee child with a white mother. Just as there is no way that Taylor is giving up her child.

And they go on the run, leaving everything behind.

The Characters

Turtle Greer is a six-year-old girl abandoned three years ago with Taylor Greer. “Jax Thibodeaux is Taylor’s boyfriend; a keyboard player in a band called the Irascible Babies.” Not someone Taylor prizes, although Jax adores her and Turtle. Lou Ann Ruiz is like a second mother to Turtle and is Taylor’s best friend. Mattie is her boss down at the auto parts store and a friend. Gundi is their free-spirited, artist landlady.

Alice Stamper Greer is Taylor’s mother. A strong woman who raised Taylor on her own. Harland is her second husband. And a big mistake.

Sugar Boss Hornbuckle is Alice’s second cousin and famous for a one-off picture taken in Heaven, Oklahoma for Life magazine. She was one of Bonnie Fourkiller‘s friends. Roscoe Hornbuckle is her husband and a Cherokee. Their kids are Quatie and Johnetta. Boma Mellowbug is Quatie’s mother-in-law. Actually, it seems as though most of the kids and people we meet are related somehow to Sugar.

Lucky Buster is the mentally handicapped boy who gets rescued. Otis is his friend and a train engineer. Angie Buster is his mama and she runs Angie’s Diner and a motel. Barbie™ is a Vegas waitron with a few screws loose and totally hung up on Barbie dolls. Kevin is a bigoted jerk at the Handi-Van company in Seattle.

Annawake Fourfiller is an up-and-coming law intern for the Cherokee Nation. Jinny Redcrow is the secretary in Franklin Turnbo‘s law office. Dellon is one of Annawake’s brothers. Millie is her ex-sister-in-law. Gabe is the brother, Annawake’s twin, who was taken away and adopted by a white family. One who was ashamed of his Indian heritage. Annawake’s family was destroyed when their mother, Bonnie, got put away and the family broken up per white man’s law. Uncle Ledger is the tribe’s medicine man.

Cash Stillwater is a Cherokee adrift. One who wakes back up to the importance of family. He also does beautiful beadwork. Lacey Stillwater is the child who is missing. Andy Rainbelt is “a social psychiatrist who works with Cherokee children”. Letty Hornbuckle is the county gossip who loves to interfere.

The Cover and Title

The cover of the book I read is red, white, and blue with its brilliant blue sky, red mountains as the sun sets, and the author’s name and title along with other text. A pale green succulent is down and center — I’m thinking a giant agave.

The title is a reference to a Cherokee folk tale about bad little boys and the Seven Sisters, The Pigs in Heaven. A tale of similarities.