Friday, March 8, 2013

THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver


A missionary family in the Congo discovers that they are ill-prepared for their work, and for the impact that Africa will have on them.


This is one of those rare novels that is dense and lyrical, and yet impossible to put down. It follows the journey of a Southern Baptist family to the depths of the Congo in 1959, where they are forever changed. Told primarily through the voices of the four daughters, with occasional, heart-breaking input from the mother, it is about being swept away in something bigger and darker and more beautiful than you could have predicted.

The father is a hard-nosed, obsessively passionate, violent man who refuses to be flexible and understand the needs and culture of the jungle village. He pits himself against Africa in the name of God's work, and his wife and daughters become the collateral damage. Meanwhile, they are affected by the people, the attitudes towards life and death, and the very atmosphere of the Congo. Spanning one intense year and then a lifetime of repercussions, the story unfolds through sickness, war, and abuse, and explores the complicated ways people are able to live with themselves.

Kingsolver's use of imagery, particular religious imagery, to weave her story is masterful. She molds language into five distinct voices, each providing a poetic and sometimes tortured perspective on the lives of women who find themselves, at least at first, in a place where they don't belong. Even the words are distinct for each character, with one making up words at will and another using them backwards, forwards, and sideways. The story is worth reading for the creation and evolution of those voices if nothing else. Beneath the language, we see the changes that take place in young women who have their entire worldviews shattered and rebuilt around them.


Barbara Kingsolver's website


I bought the e-book for a couple of dollars when it was the Kindle Daily Deal. It's currently $8.24.


According to Leah and Adah, Rachel does not change at her core throughout the whole of her life. Arguably, Nathan also does not change. Do you think this is true and/or possible given their personalities?

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