BOOK REVIEW / Bookshop Window: Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver, Faber, pounds 14.99.

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Kingsolver has a growing reputation. She writes with verve and she is on the side of the angels. Here she sets up an interesting situation: a Cherokee girl of about three, who has been seriously abused, is dumped in the lap of a pleasant white American woman who unofficially adopts her. An Indian lawyer begins to fight for the rights of the Cherokees to reclaim the child. Our sympathies are with Taylor because she loves and cherishes the child (named Turtle). She has support from her tough old mother and delightful boyfriend Ja, a jazz musician who fizzes with whimsy. The lawyer, too, is not quite the killer she seems. Kingsolver avoids the grosser pitfalls of the PC novel, and has done plenty of colourful research on the Cherokees and their not so disheartening existence these days. But it is a little hard to believe in so much sweetness and light, and there is not enough in the pile-up of dialogue and narrative, much of which is both cute and acute. Most important of all, Kingsolver avoids answering the big question: who abused the child along ago and why? Was he Indian or not? It would have been harder to write if she had followed that murky trail, but the book might have had an edge this lacks, despite its fine high-stepping verbal dressage, its niceness, intelligence and charm.