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Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver

Book by Barbara Kingsolver

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A family's journey into its own wilderness

  • Jan 16, 2002
  • by
Kingsolver's most powerful and memorable book to date, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE is multi-faceted: intricate layers become a pattern of endurance and survival in a harsh and demanding land. The missionary family of parents and four daughters undertake to bring their Christian message to the Congo. A land that demands respect, Africa is nothing they could ever have imagined. The father becomes ever more rigid in his beliefs, while the mother and daughters attempt to adjust to this environment and learn from it.

The story is told primarily from the viewpoints of the four daughters as the inevitable tragedy unfolds, leaving the family stunned in its aftermath, as their time in Africa changes their lives forever. This tale is an indictment of the missionary hubris that disrespected generations grounded in their own history, the belief that the missionaries could bring "The Word" to "savages". The brutality of everyday existence is juxtaposed with the incomparable beauty of nature and the stunning images of Kingsolver's phrasing: "As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer's long hair in water".

The only view we aren't told is Nathan's, he of the implacable judgment, stripped hard as stone by his belief in a righteous and angry God, one with no mercy. Nathan is ultimately destroyed by the blind faith of his beliefs, making idolatry of the very Word he wears like a crown, distorting truth to his own ego-driven ambition: the death of the spiritual self in the aggrandizement of ritual. In the end, "Africa swallowed the conqueror's music and sang a new song of her own".

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review by . June 23, 2010
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This book is, in a word, captivating. I would go so far as to say that Kingsolver has left us with a work of truly epic proportions and consequence. This is a book to be read closely, studied deeply, and discussed openly.       The Poisonwood Bible takes us to the sticky, untamed jungle of the Congo, where an overzealous Baptist missionary has landed his family in the hopes of spreading Christianity. The novel’s narration alternates between the preacher’s wife …
review by . June 23, 2010
I've read all of Barbara Kingsolver's books except her latest one, The Lacuna, and I am so impressed with her writing. She has such a knack for creating such strong female characters, full of quirks but also incredibly human and easy to relate to.      This book really hit me because I saw in it my grandma and her three sisters. Not that they encountered circumstances such as the Price family does in Africa, but the four females of around the same ages …
review by . July 15, 2010
Poisonwood Bible reminded me why I love to read.
I didn’t really know anything about this book before picking it up, but a close friend recommended it so I picked it up before a long trip through the Middle East. Poisonwood Bible was the perfect travel companion.      The book is about a Southern preacher who drags his family to the Congo to ‘save Africa.’ His family soon finds themselves in the Congo without support and while the people decide to start an uprising against the Belgians who have long oppressed …
review by . June 21, 2010
When I first read this book it was an assignment for an English class. At first I was expecting it to be super boring, but was I in for a surprise. You really get hooked to the characters and it is wonderful to see the events that occur from the different points of view.        The books is about a family that moves to Congo, for ministry. As the book goes along, the reader sees the breakdown of the family and the motives of the minster are uncovered.      …
review by . July 06, 2010
The Poisonwood Bible goes down as one of my sentimental favorites. It is a fairly quick read, as you meet the point of view of each character ... a band of sisters dealing with family, love, grief and life in a small African town as they are missionaries. Kinsolver's flow keeps the reader turning pages, wanting to hear what each point of view will say next about given events. And its a great way to learn about life in another country, yet again giving us reason to be grateful in our own lives. …
review by . June 25, 2010
A friend recommended this to me in high school after she had to read it for an advanced class. I read the summary and thought it could be entertaining and could have some good paradoxes but to be honest I thought it would be just an average book for me to kill some time with. Was I wrong! The religious tones are frightening when being cast down on his family by an overbearing father who cares more about his help in a small tribe in the forest in another country completely foreign to their life. …
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
I took this book on a long travel and it was absolutely perfect. It even made me excited for down time so that I could keep reading. I love the different perspectives the book provides as it has five different narrators. A really beautiful story.
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
Complex and thought provoking. Not a light read but fascinating look at the legacy of colonialism and missionaries in Africa.
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
Pretty good examination of religious conviction, but the last half should have been cut... or at least published separately.
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
Definitely an interesting, well-written book.
About the reviewer
Luan Gaines ()
Ranked #108
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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About this book


Oprah Book Club® Selection, June 2000:As any reader ofThe Mosquito Coastknows, men who drag their families to far-off climes in pursuit of an Idea seldom come to any good, while those familiar withAt Play in the Fields of the LordorKalimantaanunderstand that the minute a missionary sets foot on the fictional stage, all hell is about to break loose. So when Barbara Kingsolver sends missionary Nathan Price along with his wife and four daughters off to Africa inThe Poisonwood Bible, you can be sure that salvation is the one thing they're not likely to find. The year is 1959 and the place is the Belgian Congo. Nathan, a Baptist preacher, has come to spread the Word in a remote village reachable only by airplane. To say that he and his family are woefully unprepared would be an understatement: "We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle," says Leah, one of Nathan's daughters. But of course it isn't long before they discover that the tremendous humidity has rendered the mixes unusable, their clothes are unsuitable, and they've arrived in the middle of political upheaval as the Congolese seek to wrest independence from Belgium. In addition to poisonous snakes, dangerous animals, and the hostility of the villagers to Nathan's fiery take-no-prisoners brand of Christianity, there are also rebels in the jungle and the threat of war in the air. Could things get any worse?

In fact they can and they do. The first ...

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ISBN-10: 0060930535
ISBN-13: 978-0060930530
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial
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Oprahs Book Club 2000-2009


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