The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Why did I wait so long to read this book? It has been on my bookshelf for a couple years now. I have heard it recommended by several bookish bloggers, yet when I would read they synopsis, I just wasn’t sure Historical Fiction about the Congo was going to be enjoyable to me. However, because I have given myself permission to set aside any book I’m not enjoying, I decided to read a couple chapters and see what I thought. And, I loved it.
The premise: The Price family (an evangelical Baptist family from Georgia USA) travels to the Congo to do mission work. The father, Nathan, is the only one called to do this work, the rest of the family, wife Orleana and 4 daughters Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth May are dragged along.
The poor family completely underestimated what supplies they would need and what would be useless in this unimaginable environment. Nathan is arrogant in his belief that he can figure it all out, and also, in his ability to bring Jesus into the villager’s hearts and baptize the lot of them.
The story is told from multiple points of view. Chapters alternate between the women of the family and begin in 1959 and end sometime in the mid 1980’s. Each family member experiences and grows through this experience in a different way. And, while there are serious issues and sad experiences, I also found several times I would laugh out loud at the interpretation of events told by the young girls. (e.g., when one of them is scandalized by the common practice of taking multiple wives, because she has been taught that marriage is meant to be “monotonous” – LOL).
The Poisonwood Bible was an eye-opening view of how people live in poor developing nations and made me feel both blessed and cursed to live in the land of plenty. While the people of the Congo have little, they want for little as well and they work together as a community to take care of one another.
This is not a small book, the paperback is 576 pages, but it’s well worth the time! Note – I also picked up the audio book and alternated between the paper book and the audio. While I loved the voice of the narrator, she did not use different voices for each character, so it was easy to get confused about who was narrating each chapter without having the book in hand to follow along. However, there were several African and French words, so it was nice to be able to hear the correct pronunciation of those. I would highly recommend reading and listening to it in tandem.
If you pick this up, I would love to know what you think about it!