Monday, January 19, 2015

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Summary from Amazon:
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in post colonial Africa.

Read 2014

4 Stars

Library hard copy book and audio book

My Review:
I like happy books.  I read to escape.  

Our local book club was reading The Poisonwood Bible and I knew it would be a hard book for me to read.  I was really interested in trying to read this book for book club even though I rarely go.  I wanted to see if I could read a book that wasn't my typical escapist book.  I decided I might have more luck getting in to the story if I listened to it on CD.  I was right.  I recommend the audio book even if you are going to read a hard copy (which I read some from the hard copy book as well).  I liked getting the pronunciations and patterns of speech from the audio book.  

I studied some Anthropology in college and one of the terms that is often used is ethnocentric.  The Merriam-Webster definition of this word is "having or based on the idea that your own group or culture is better or more important than others."  This story gives a prime example of someone who is ethnocentric, Nathan Price.  His family is ethnocentric as well, but I feel that they adapted better than their father/husband.

The story followed an American family who traveled to Africa as missionaries.  The father came in trying to convert the people in the village to Christianity and western traditions with no thought to how they were living in their own culture.  I wanted to strangle the father.  I wanted to slap the mother for not being a better advocate for her children when they were put in danger by the father's actions as well as being in the new environment.  I had a lot of frustrations with these parents.

This book was told from the female family members' points of view.  At first it was a bit confusing to me, but listening to the CD audio book helped me get to know these characters as individuals.  Hearing each of their points of view helped me get to know the many secondary characters as well.  The characters and their relationships were very important in this book.  As much as this was a story about a missionary family in Africa during revolutionary times, it was really about relationships and how individual decisions affect those relationships.  

When my father was in his early 20's in the 1960's, he lived in South Africa.  He was a missionary for our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I don't know much about his time there.  Unfortunately, he passed away last year.  When I read this book I wished he were there to talk to about that time in his life.  I wonder if he was aware of the revolution going on in the Belgian Congo.  I wonder if it affected him in South Africa at all.

This was a hard book for me to get through.  It is hard for me to read about people having struggles.  I want everything to work out well for people and the reality is that happily ever afters are extremely uncommon.  This book is thought provoking and covers an interesting time in history.  While reading it I looked up more information on the subject.  Any book that gets me interested in finding out more is a success in my opinion.

Warnings:  Death, physical/emotional hardship, mature topics like civil unrest, imprisonment for beliefs

I would let my 16 year old read this book.  It is hard to get through in my opinion, but I think she has read books in school that are just as difficult in subject matter as well as the way they are written.

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