Suzanne Oxford, November 14, 2012 (view all comments by Suzanne Oxford)
This book is a portrait of a missionary family who leave their middle-American home in Bethlehem, Georgia for the dark and fobidding rainforest of deepest Africa. The Price family led by their Hell and brimstone Evangelical minister, Nathan Price, are dragged into a life which they are totally unprepared for, bringing along their Betty Crocker cake mixes, packets of seeds for Big Boy tomatoes and gardening tools. The story is told from 5 different points of view, as we hear from the mother, Orleanna and 4 daughters. This definitely adds a greater dimension of depth to an otherwise beautifully told story. With dramatic imagery, you enter the jungles of Africa and can hear the sounds, feel the heavy humid air on your skin and see the magnificent greenery of the jungle.
I see some reviewers here were not impressed with this book, which I really do not understand. From the beginning, Kingsolver casts a spell on the reader and you are swept up into her world of Africa. She gives authentic characterizations of the land, its people, the conflicts and struggles for survival in day-to-day life in the Congo. I believe this struggle for survival is the main theme of the book and how people are changed by their surroundings. For example, Orleanna has been sheltered most of her life in Mississippi until she marries Nathan. Soon after she finds she has entered a loveless union with a broken man who is not able to show any compassion or even kindness to his wife. After having 4 children, she can only blindly follow his lead, ending up in Africa. Later on Kingsolver shows how events in Africa, including some of the worst possible disasters, make a change in Orleanna. However, with Nathan and Rachel, the oldest daughter, there is little that changes in their basic characters.
I really enjoyed this novel with all the adventure and drama that only Africa could provide. At times it is even humorous with the native men in Africa wearing red trousers with holes in the bottom or when the women danced at the tribal celebration being naked to the waist, much to Nathan Price's chagrin.
Denise Barnett, July 14, 2010 (view all comments by Denise Barnett)
I can't believe I let this book sit on the shelf for so long. The story of a couple and their four daughters on a mission trip into the Congo is enthralling! You are able to read it through the eyes of each person as they see it happen. Beautifully written with characters that you will not forget. Heart-breaking, exciting, and lovely all at once while this family turns into individuals.
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Libellule, June 27, 2006 (view all comments by Libellule)
As J.D. Salinger wrote, the proof of an excellent book is that, at the end, the reader has the unexplicable urge to call up the writer, to just hang out for a while, like a friend. Thank you for The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver. I feel like I could call you up. I feel like I know you.
The novel has an unearthly atmosphere, perhaps helped by religious allusions... but the content is unmistakably close to the writer's heart, and that's what makes it feel real.
Since discovering Barbara Kingsolver I've read a few others, and I would also highly recommend Animal Dreams. Their common points: both novels made me sick in the guts, and I had to read them both again.
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In The Poisonwood Bible, a Baptist missionary takes his family to the Belgian Congo in the late '50s, endangering the lives of his wife and four daughters. Alternating between the voices of the mother and daughters, Kingsolver successfully paints the emotional depth of their predicament and the insanity of the father and his deranged beliefs.
by USA Today,
"Tragic, and remarkable....A novel that blends outlandish experience with Old Testament rhythms of prophecy and doom."
In her first novel since "Pigs in Heaven", Kingsolver offers a compelling exploration of religion, conscience, imperialist arrogance, and the many paths to redemption. An American missionary and his family travel to the Congo in 1959, a time of tremendous political and social upheaval. Web feature.
by Harper Collins,
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.
The novel is set against one of the most dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo's fight for independence from Belgium, the murder of its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy. Against this backdrop, Orleanna Price reconstructs the story of her evangelist husband's part in the Western assault on Africa, a tale indelibly darkened by her own losses and unanswerable questions about her own culpability. Also narrating the story, by turns, are her four daughters—the self-centered, teenaged Rachel; shrewd adolescent twins Leah and Adah; and Ruth May, a prescient five-year-old. These sharply observant girls, who arrive in the Congo with racial preconceptions forged in 1950s Georgia, will be marked in surprisingly different ways by their father's intractable mission, and by Africa itself. Ultimately each must strike her own separate path to salvation. Their passionately intertwined stories become a compelling exploration of moral risk and personal responsibility.
Dancing between the dark comedy of human failings and the breathtaking possibilities of human hope, The Poisonwood Bible possesses all that has distinguished Barbara Kingsolver's previous work, and extends this beloved writer's vision to an entirely new level. Taking its place alongside the classic works of postcolonial literature, this ambitious novel establishes Kingsolver as one of the most thoughtful and daring of modern writers.
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