A little Vietnamese girl's actions effect an entire racially segregated neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, prompting them to put aside their differences and get along. Kim and her mother and sister are Vietnamese immigrants who have settled into a neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio where racial tension is high. The people in the neighborhood just can't seem to get along. The story opens on the anniversary of Kim's father's death. Kim never knew her father as he passed away before she was born. All the young girl has of him is a picture. She decides to do something in honor of his death. In her neighborhood there is a vacant lot filled with trash and soil. Kim takes a couple of lima bean seeds a thermos of water and goes to the lot. There she plants her seeds and hopes that her father will look down on her and her lima beans from heaven. There is a Romanian woman who lives across the street from the vacant lot. Her name is Ana. Ana's favorite pastime is people watching from her window. She sees Kim digging in the dirt in the vacant, sees her bury something and assumes quite rashly that Kim has buried something dangerous and illegal. So after Kim leaves, Ana goes over to investigate and ends up digging up where Kim buried her lima beans. When Ana realizes that she's just dug up a little girl's attempt at growing vegetables, she feels terrible. The next day, Ana watches for Kim to come back and water the plants but she is a no show. So Ana calls her neighbor Wendell to her apartment. Wendell is a widower who has also recently lost his son in a street shooting. He works as a janitor. Ana asks for Wendell's advice on keeping the plants alive since she almost killed them by digging them up. Wendell goes across the street and water's the plants and by doing so is inspired to plants something of his own in the vacant lot. Another member of the neighborhood is a teenager named Gonzalo who has just moved from El Salvador with his family. Gonzalo is the most fluent English speaker out of everyone in his family and thus is needed to help out the most. One day, he realizes that his somewhat loopy great uncle Tio Lopez has wandered off. He eventually finds him at the vacant lot talking to Wendell. Apparently, Tio Lopez has an impressive green thumb and tries to give Wendell gardening tips. So Tio Lopez and Gonzalo decide to come back the next day and plant their own plants in the lot as well. The next person in the neighborhood to take notice of the goings on at the vacant lot is an African American woman named Leona. Leona sees everyone gardening and then decides she'd like to plant goldenroot for her grandmother to make tea out of. Leona takes note of all of the trash in the lot and decides to do something about it. She calls every trash collector and health and safety official she can get a hold of until someone finally listens to her and gets the trash hauled out of the lot. The next neighbor to be introduced is a 78 year old Jewish man named Sam. Sam really want to garden as well but is to old to do so, so he hires a Puerto Rican teenager, pays him and lets him have a row of his own to garden. Sam sees that even inside the garden, the people have segregated themselves. Not only that but the trash is still a problem since people like to throw their trash out their windows and into the lot and the lot is poorly irrigated. Another member of the neighborhood is Sae, a young Korean woman whose husband owns a dry cleaners. One day, Sae is robbed at gunpoint and beaten and naturally this doesn't make her too keen on society. She spends most of her days inside, avoiding people altogether. That is, until she sees the garden. Enticed by the idea of being able to grow her own hot peppers, she ventures out to the lot and joins the rest of the neighborhood. There is still a problem of how to get water to the plants. Sam holds a contest amongst the children over who can come up with the best idea to irrigate the lot. One little black girl comes up with the idea to keep garbage cans around to collect rain water and Sae suggests that they add funnels to the cans so they can easily pour out water into buckets. As time goes on and more and more people in the neighborhood begin to garden in the lot, they begin to learn more about the different people who live amongst them and they begin to get along. Through the garden and because of the ripple effect of the little girl Kim, the people in this segregated and racially tense neighborhood begin to break down the barriers that kept them apart. The people of the neighborhood continue to keep the garden going for many years after that.
Click here to see the rest of this review
Best part of story, including ending:
I thought it interesting to see the ripple effect of one little girl's tribute to her father. Little Kim had no idea what her planting of the Lima Bean's would bring about. I liked that it was a story about people coming together and understanding each other's backgrounds.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Ana is suspicious about what Kim has buried in the lot and goes to dig up the beans. When she realizes what she's down she wants to make amends and starts a snowball effect.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked Kim's dedication. At first she just wants to do something nice for a father she never knew to honor him, then she returns to the lot everyday to water her little bean sprouts. I liked the little girl's dedication.