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The Bean Trees | Study Guide

Barbara Kingsolver

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The Bean Trees | Chapter 3 : Jesus Is Lord Used Tires | Summary



Taylor stays on at the Broken Arrow Motor Lodge with Mrs. Hoge and her daughter Irene for a few months, cleaning rooms and caring for the Native American child, before she continues her westward journey. She has taken to calling the mute child Turtle because she holds onto Taylor like a mud turtle, which bites and "won't let go till it thunders." After a hailstorm and with a flat tire, Taylor pulls into Jesus Is Lord Used Tires and meets the owner Mattie, who is kind to Taylor and Turtle. Mattie tells Taylor that she needs two new tires because both of her car's rear tires are ruined, but Taylor can't afford to replace them. Mattie provides an introduction to Arizona and some tips on mothering, cautioning Taylor about keeping Turtle hydrated. Taylor and Turtle leave the car at Mattie's and stay at the Hotel Residence. Taylor explores Tucson while looking for employment, checking out the plasma center and the art galleries downtown. Taylor meets Sandi, who works at Burger Derby and leaves her son at Kid Central Station, a daycare for shoppers at the local mall.


Taylor decides to live in Arizona in large part because of Texas Canyon, which she thinks is "too goofy to be real." It's good timing because her tires are about to fall apart. By the time she arrives in Tucson, Taylor is driving on two rims and will have to stay there, but she is still able to see some irony in chance. When she stops at the restaurant in Oklahoma in Chapter 1, the television displays a hotline: "1-800-THE LORD." Since then, Taylor has been thinking of calling the number as a backup plan. When she sees the name of Mattie's tire shop, "Jesus Is Lord Used Tires," Taylor sees it as a kind of sign that she was meant to stop there. The name is unique enough to leave the reader thinking that Taylor has arrived next door to Lou Ann's house, since Lou Ann passes Jesus Is Lord Used Tires every day. Mattie's mention of the Chinese woman who lives next door confirms the location, since Lou Ann also lives by the market run by the Chinese woman Lee Sing. Taylor and Lou Ann's eventual meeting is foreshadowed by these physical locators.

Mattie is introduced to the reader as a kind and generous woman who welcomes Taylor and Turtle into her office and life, giving them food, advice, and a little bit of shelter when they desperately need it. When Taylor comments on how good Mattie is with children and suggests that perhaps she has grandchildren, Mattie says she has "something like" grandchildren. Although Taylor does not understand what this means, it alerts the reader to the fact that there are numerous features of Mattie and her life that she keeps hidden from the casual observer. Eventually Taylor will come to learn that Mattie's "something like" grandchildren are the immigrant families that she takes in and helps move along a kind of underground railroad. In this scene, Taylor and Turtle are the refugees, fleeing and in need of shelter, to whom Mattie provides her usual brand of kindness and generosity to help them get back on their feet.

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