Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver


Fiction.  Do not be deceived by the title like I was initially.  It kept popping up on my "recommended for you" list on my library's digital consortium and I could not figure out (#1) why, with that kind of title, because I did not want a book constantly trying to convert me to Christianity (I read loads of religious/mythological texts, so I thought that was the reason it was recommended to me), and (#2) I could not place the author's name for the life of me, nor how I knew it.  After reading about half of it and checking something on the library site, I finally saw that she is the woman who wrote Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which I read for my non-fiction book club at the library.  This work is definitely not about growing your own food/eating locally sourced food in the U.S. (though that was a fantastic book) and it is definitely not about making Jesus your personal savior.

This is an excellent novel, and the version I borrowed had a marvelous section by the author about how she writes, why she wrote this work, and why she was examining it again, even though she never does that with her books (a t.v. mini-series was in the works apparently).  Normally when Kingsolver finishes a book she is done, send the kids off to the world on their own type of approach.  I am glad I read about her working methods and reasons for writing the book first, so if you can get that copy you should do so, it was quite informative and useful.

This work follows the Price family during their time on an evangelical mission by their father, Nathan Price, a baptist minister, to the Belgian Congo beginning in 1959.  Each section is written by either the mother or one of the four girls.  Kingsolver is terribly gifted at portraying the right voice for each of these characters, and changes them appropriately as they grow into adult women.  I do not want to state too much about plot, lest I ruin it for the reader, but the way the characters evolve and change because of their experiences in the Congo, other African nations, and in the U.S. is astounding.  I am sure readers will identify or side with at least one or two of the characters, and they are likely to dislike one or two of them as well.  I never cared for Rachel, she was a spoiled and vapid airhead the whole way through, I could not fathom her points of view nor how she never changed from the ages of 16 to 50 in her dippy-ness and shallowness.  People who are trying to grow or buy any kind of food to eat, just so they can survive another day, do not care about changing from coral to pink nail-polish and being a season behind, boo-hoo.  I found her completely shallow and appalling.  But that's just my perspective.

I would recommend this work to those who want to learn a little bit of the history of an African nation in a time of government changes, what life is like in Africa for an outsider, how girls face real adversity and become strong women, grief, loss, and the way we love our blinders on in life.  The things we do not learn about astound me.

And so it goes...
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