Free Study Guide for The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver-BookNotes

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Lou Ann Ruiz was living in Tucson and her husband, Angel, was gone. He had had an accident on Christmas Day three years ago, and had lost a leg. Lou Ann had quit her job at the Three Bears Day School to be home to take care of him. The amputation never bothered her, but for Angel things were never the same. He left on Halloween, unexpectedly to Lou Ann who at first thought they’d been robbed when she saw things missing from the house.

When he left, Lou Ann had been at the doctor’s office for her seventh month prenatal exam. While there, Lou Ann thought that when the baby was born they’d give it a Catholic baptism for the sake of Angel’s mother. Lou Ann’s mother, who never liked Angel because he was Mexican, would frown upon the baptism but she lived eighteen hundred miles away in Kentucky and Angel’s mother lived right across town.

She rode the bus home from the doctor’s office, got off and walked past familiar places like Jesus Is Lord Used Tires and the Fanny Heaven nightclub/pornography shop next door. She did some grocery shopping at the Lee Sing Market. When she got home and found that Angel was gone for good she was confused and hurt. Pregnant and overweight, unable to bend over to unbuckle her shoes without him, she went to bed uncomfortably with her shoes and socks on. Finally she cried “until her eye sockets felt empty.”


This chapter is short yet effectively propagates the undercurrent feeling of struggle that began on page one of the novel. The author switches to third person and gives the reader a brief look at a woman who is feeling that life is going nowhere.

Lou Ann’s trip home gives us a glimpse of the contrasts and contradictions that pervade her life. She passed advertisements for the beautiful singer Tania Maria, as well as bands with names like Useless Turmoil. Only a stack of tires separates Jesus Is Lord Used Tires and Fanny Heaven. Lou Ann won’t buy the yogurt that her doctor recommended because it is too expensive, but she’ll buy macaroons for Angel. She learned more about her marriage from what Angel took out of the house than from what they had in the house.

There is no indication at this point, except a fleeting reference to Kentucky, as to where Lou Ann Ruiz will fit into Taylor Greer’s story.

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