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

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One hundred miles outside of New Mexico, Taylor tries to stay calm as they approach a checkpoint set up by Immigration. She is so nervous that when the officer asks whose child Turtle is Taylor hesitates so that Estevan says the child belongs to Esperanza and him. Taylor is agitated that Esperanza and Estevan seem more like parents than she. After they pass the Border Patrol, Taylor drives on through the night. She and Estevan converse about everything from the culture of the Mayan people to Esperanza and Taylor growing up without fathers. As they speak, Esperanza sings quietly to Turtle who is falling asleep in Esperanza’s lap.

On the second day they drive through the Texas panhandle and western Oklahoma remarking about the desolate flatness of the landscape. They bypass Oklahoma City to spend the night at the Broken Arrow Motor Lodge where Taylor and Turtle are welcomed and remembered well.

The next morning Estevan and Esperanza decide that helping Taylor look for Turtle’s relatives is worth the risk of being on the road an extra day. Oklahoma is a comparatively safe place for Estevan and Esperanza because they blend in with the large Cherokee population there. Estevan invents a life history for “Steven and Hope Two Two” and their daughter Turtle. Esperanza continues to bond with Turtle and may even have called her Ismene. This makes Taylor very uneasy.

They find the bar where Taylor was first presented with Turtle, and with Estevan’s encouragement, Taylor goes in. The place is under new ownership and the waitress is unfamiliar with any of the people Taylor remembers from several months before. The waitress is helpful, however, in explaining that they are merely at the edge of the Cherokee Nation, the main part being east toward the Ozark Mountains, and that the Cherokee Nation isn’t a place but people with their own government.

Taylor is devastated that she has reached a dead end in her search for Turtle’s parents. She feels foolish and confused, but is unwilling to give up. She wants to go to Lake o’ the Cherokees, a scenic place from a postcard, stay in a cabin, and have a vacation, something none of them had ever had before.


The feeling of struggle, undercurrent throughout the novel, resurfaces in this chapter. The terror of being forced to flee and not belonging anywhere is brought out in the dialog between Taylor and Estevan. Sympathy for the misery of losing a child is evoked by the growing relationship between Esperanza and Turtle. Yet despite their pain, so grateful are Estevan and Esperanza for what Taylor is doing for them, they change their role from needing help to giving support as they postpone their arrival at the sanctuary church in order to stay with Taylor.

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