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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver was AMAZING! It was hard to place this book down and was so compelling that my wife wanted me to start reading it out loud to her halfway through.

Kingsolver brilliantly tells a story about a family from Georgia who moves to the Congo as missionaries before the world turns upside down and Congo becomes independent from their colonial rulers.  This is a work of historical fiction as she weaves the story of the Congo into the lives of 4 women and a unfortunate man. In her own words

This is a work of fiction. Its principal characters are pure inventions with no relations on this earth, as far as I know.  But the Congo in which I placed them is genuine.  The historical figures and events described here are as real as I could render them with the help of recorded history, in all its fascinating variations.

The story is told by Orleanna Price (mother), Rachael, Leah, Adah (twin of Leah) and Ruth May.  Each person narrates for awhile in their own distinct personality and perspective.  They talk about what is happening, their feelings, and their interaction with each other and their father, Nathan.  From the beginning you can begin to see how their fundamental Christian faith is not going to benefit them much as they negotiate a new and vastly different culture.

The story doesn't end when tragedy strikes, because that is when the story really gets interesting.  I recommend this Oprah's Book Club book to everyone.  It highlights the problems of Westerners bringing their own ideas and culture into the developing world and being so rigid that no good can come from it. 



Anonymous said...

It was interesting to read a masculine response to this story. As a Christian woman, I had a somewhat different reaction than you did. I think . . . . but it has been several years since I read the Poisonwood Bible. At that time in my life, I had been married to a man similar to the father figure in this fictitious family. And I had been there and in much the same agonizing circumstances as his family, only my situation wasn't fiction. It was real. And I had been there almost 25 years. The legalism and rigidity nearly made me catatonic like the mom in our story. And I was in that situation for almost 25 years before I finally escaped.
So, I guess our experiences frame our perceptions and the ways in which we understand someone else's story. I agree that the book was compelling . . . . and I agree that the father was an "unfortunate man." But I also felt very strongly that his choices made life rather miserable for all the women in his little universe. And unfortunately for THEM, theirs was a world in which Dad got to make all the choices, and the girls usually just had to live with them. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for this book . . . . I loved it, too, but I think maybe for different reasons. This just might make for a good conversation starter about the generational differences in the church NOW and the vision you all have as opposed to what many of us were forced to tolerate 30 years ago. Just a thought! Nina

eyes on europe said...

yes! i've been a fan of barbera kingslover for a few years now (i got started with "the bean trees"). i remember i tried to make christy read it in college but it just kept getting pushed around in her room until i took it back...;)

when i recommend it to people i say its "how not to be a missionary."

crossn81 said...

Nina - Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts about the book. Thank you for sharing about your experience, it must have been hard for you to read the story and see your life in it.

Eyes - indeed, Christy is not a big reader, if you had read it to her she might have liked it!