The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

1. The Bean Trees (1988)
The gist: Kentucky girl Taylor heads to Arizona, adopts a Cherokee girl, and falls for a (taken) immigrant.

The culture shock: Her eye-opening travels and her beloved's refugee ordeal make Taylor "feel like a foreigner" (as she puts it) in her own country.

The big question: When do you have the right to love somebody who's not yours?
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

2. The Poisonwood Bible (1998)
The gist: A white missionary and his family arrive in the Belgian Congo on the brink of its independence in 1959.

The culture shock: The pastor's blind determination to "enlighten" a Congolese village has awful results for both the native people and his family.

The big question: How do you atone for the sins of the father?
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

3. Prodigal Summer (2000)
The gist: A trio of linked Appalachian tales about the birds and the bees.

The culture shock: City girl marries into country family, stubborn codger is sweet on hippie chick, coyote researcher falls for coyote hunter.

The big question: What's the difference between lust and love?
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

4. The Lacuna (2009)
The gist: The short, extraordinary life of writer (and Frida Kahlo confidant) Harrison Shepherd.

The culture shock: Raised in—and shaped by—America and Mexico, Harrison discovers that his dual national identity is both blessing and curse.

The big Question: Do we make history, or does history make us?

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