Barbara Kingsolver's "Bean Trees".... and dilemma resolved!
After sampling the author's work with "Prodigal Summer", I was undecided whether I "liked" her work or not. So I agreed with myself to try another (this time, her first novel "Bean Trees", from the 1990's).
There's a lot to like: especially addressing the issue of infant/child sex abuse! Her characterization of little "Turtle" was handled just right. The main character's efforts to adopt her little charge were touching, complete with her self-doubts about her ability to protect and nurture the baby.
The author's ability to describe nature: sunsets, flowers, storms, etc. Strong. (But tossed into the narrative self-indulgently?).
Kingsolver has a social agenda (who doesn't?). So her novels are sprinkled with one dimensional characters you can't really "picture" or "feel you know", but seem to stand for whichever ideal she's in favor of, or against. This is not literature; eventually, it feels like nagging.
I remember how vividly: "Like Water for Elephants" makes you feel the injustice of mistreating captive animals and letting old people rot in nursing homes. "March" leaves you not doubt about the horrors of human bondage, while providing full-blooded characters; the same goes for "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman". Kingsolver's work does not rise these examples of artistry.