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The Poisonwood Bible

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  466,320 ratings  ·  16,914 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 546 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1998)
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David It's easy to like a book we agree with, or that supports our world view, and also easy to dislike a book that challenges our beliefs and values. I…moreIt's easy to like a book we agree with, or that supports our world view, and also easy to dislike a book that challenges our beliefs and values. I guess it comes down to WHY we read. To affirm who we already are? To experience diverse viewpoints? Or to simply to enjoy good writing, or a good story, and let it be just that...a story? I identify as a Christian, and I enjoyed this book very much. No doubt there are people like Nathan Price...just as there are many people NOT like him. (Brother Fowles, for example.) It's a big, wide world. (less)
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Community Reviews

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On one hand, there is nothing new here, and on this same old tirade, I disagree strongly with the author. Examples:

* Relativism. I'm sorry, I believe infanticide to be wrong for all cultures, for all times.

* Missionaries, particularly protestant missionaries to Africa were entirely the endeavor of egotistic, abusive, colonialists who were merely out to change Africa into either a western society or an exploitative factory for western society. Wrong again, read Tom Hiney's "On the Missionary Trai
I had a hard time choosing between 2 and 3 stars -- really, it should be 2.5. I thought the prose was quite lovely; Kingsolver has a nice voice. I enjoyed reading about a part of the world of which I have no experience. The description of the clash of cultures was well done.

However. The author had an agenda and she really didn't mind continually slapping us in the face with it. Now, I don't pretend the US hasn't made mistakes and won't continue on making mistakes. But to equate one group of peo
People love this book, and I think I understand why. It's got a collection of strong characters, each chapter is written from a different character's point of view, and it's set in Africa, which is exciting. But there are a few reasons I don't think it's great literature.

The main things I expect from a good novel are: a) that the writer doesn't manipulate her characters for her agenda, b) that the characters' actions are consistent to the world the writer has created for them, c) good, tight pr
Jun 27, 2011 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
Reviewing in the face of the great billows of love projected towards this novel is a hapless task, your hat blows off and your eyes get all teary and if you say one wrong thing small children run out of nowhere and stone you or just bite your calves. So I shall this one time sheathe my acid quill. But I can't resist just a couple of little points though -

1) you have to suspend great balefuls of disbelief. These kids, they're awfully highfalutin with their fancy flora and fauna and fitful forensi
Jan 11, 2008 Mimi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Ashley
My official review "Tata Jesus is Bängala":

I finished the last 300 pages in 2 days (which is very fast for me - English books). I felt every emotion under the sky with this book. I hated Nathan Price, I hated injustice, I hated my uselessness, I hated the fact that there are no good prospects for Africa in the future. As a Geographic major I strongly believe that the closer you are to the Equator, the longer it will remain a 3rd world country. Of course the country itself is full of resources (i
Angela Dawn
Riveting...We read this aloud at home and I found it to be beautifully and movingly written, by turns charming and horrifying. Her articulation of the most subtle nuances of experience, the profoundly different narrative voices she assumes like an experienced character actress, and the way she fluently plays with language, show Kingsolver's love and mastery of her craft.
Having been brought up by ultra-religious Christian parents myself, I found the children's and wife's experience strongly reson
Emily May

There's plenty of goodreads reviewers who felt differently, but I found The Poisonwood Bible to be a very strong and very different piece of historical fiction. It's a slower story than I normally like, something you might want to consider before deciding whether to try this 600+ page exploration of colonialism, postcolonialism and postcolonial attitudes, but I very much enjoyed this incredibly detailed portrait of a family and a society set in the Belgian Congo of 1959. And I, unlike some othe
May 29, 2008 Rebecca rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People interested in Congolese history
I read "The Poisonwood Bible" for two reasons: Because I've always wanted to read a Barbara Kingsolver book and I am intrigued by secular takes on Christianity in modern-day writings.

I just finished it today. It is the story of a missionary family's trek to the Congo, told through the eyes of the four daughters and their mother. The father is a misguided preacher who is trying to escape past demons by force-feeding Christ to a culture that he has neither researched nor desires to understand (the
This book really made me think about why we adopt certain beliefs: what comes from the environment we are immersed in vs. what comes from within. I loved how Kingsolver shows the world view of an entire family who is experiencing the same basic situations in the Congo, but each member deals with these things very differently. It also brings up issues with culture differences and the obstacles in trying to persuade a culture to change. It poses the question of should they change, is the American ...more
Jul 13, 2010 Tatiana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are NOT hard-core republicans and/or Christians
This book literally put me into rage. In fact, I had to put it aside and read something a tad lighter (compared to The Poisonwood Bible even depressing The Lonely Polygamist is a lighter read) to be able to fall asleep. Reading about social injustices can do this to me sometimes.

The Poisonwood Bible is a story of a Baptist preacher Nathan Price who chooses to become a missionary in the Belgian Congo of 1959. Along with his unwavering beliefs and desire to bring salvation and enlightenment to sav
JG (The Introverted Reader)
The Poisonwood Bible is about a Southern Baptist family that decides to go be missionaries in the Congo in 1960, just before the country was supposedly granted its independence from Belgium. The Prices didn't bother with language or culture training, they just took off to spread the word about Jesus. Of course they weren't prepared for what they found, so of course they got in a lot of trouble.

I can't exactly put my finger on what I didn't like. I just know that it felt like it dragged on and on
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 09, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 13, 2007 Annalisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Annalisa by: bookclub
This is the book Kingsolver was destined to write. It is her life's culmination, her masterpiece. Wrapped up in a fabulous piece of fiction we learn volumes from her expertise in African culture. It is what makes her voice so authentic.

What amazes me about this story, is Barbara Kingsolver's ability to write five very distinct, very different characters and give them all a believable voice. The characters were so vivid, real in their flawed insecurities, and so utterly different. I found myself
This book was fascinating for a variety of reasons for me. Not only is it set in the jungles of Congo, but the structure really sucked me in so much more than a lot of books. Barbara Kingsolver obviously spent a lot of time researching this book (according to the P.S. text, a couple of decades)--there's a huge list of references used, and the details within the text made me feel almost as if I'd actually been to a little town deep within the jungles of Congo.

Kingsolver had a very nice variety of
I started this book around 4 or 5 years ago and couldn’t get into it. My psyche was trying to tell me not to bother. I decided to finish it (for some reason picked it over a classic like Les Miserables) and I did like the writing style and I did like the story, but it is very much anti-American, anti-Christian, and pro-communist! I should have expected exactly that from an Oprah book club book.

The book praises Patrice Lumumba (the Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister) for being a
mark monday
wonderfully written and surprisingly engaging masterpiece, illustrating the fluidity of perspective, the strength of women, and the damage that greed and possessiveness can inflict. very strong and individualistic characterizations for each of the narrative voices. understanding of a certain place and time in the Congo comes slowly but steadily to the reader and never feels forced. although kingsolver's liberal tendencies are clear, to me at least they do not unbalance the novel - except perhaps ...more
Stephen Gallup
I came to this book with The Bean Trees still fresh in my mind, confident that I would enjoy it thoroughly. I found it a very different kind of novel, in many respects (e.g., the alternating voices of multiple narrators, the very different locale (the Belgian Congo instead of the American Southwest), and the author's increasingly intrusive political message). While I adapted to the changes and got through to the end, it was not the enjoyable experience I'd hoped for. I understand that for the au ...more
Apr 26, 2007 Rebekah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: amateur historians, women, anyone with an interest in Africa or political science
This is my favorite book. Hands down. There is something about this book that strongly affects me every single time I read it. I have read it maybe 8 times. The first time I read it, it was while working in a coffee shop. It was supposed to be my "break time" reading, but I am sure I nearly got fired that week, because I couldn't put it down.

The book is told from the point of view of the Price women, four sisters and their mother, who have all been brought to the Belgian Congo by Rev. Price, an
This still is in my top five books of all time. It, along with Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country, began my interest in Africa and colonialism, and put me on teh path I've followed up to this day with my PhD focus in British colonial history in South Africa. That being said, this is a top-notch novel. In 2000, at the age of fifteen, this is what I had to say right after reading it:

"Barbara Kingsolver has eloquently crafted a marvel here. In the Poisonwood Bible, she relates the story of fiery,
Mar 20, 2008 Elizabeth rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: please don't read it, i only am b/c i'm kind of masochistic
Recommended to Elizabeth by: i got it as a hand-me-down
this book is terrible. and yet i continue to plow through, i'm not sure why other than an exercise in small and constant sacrifices, like some kind of immolation i subject myself to, trial by fire. actually it's more like water torture, these small meaningless drips that could drive you mad. the writing is really plodding and unnatural and forced. for instance the voices of 5-year-olds written with the obvious tones of a middle-aged florid ego-driven agenda. one of the things i hate most in writ ...more
Where to start in discussing this book. Kingsolver presents us with a family of naive Americans, pious Father, somewhat subservient mother, and four daughters, newly arrived in the Congo on their father's mission to convert the natives to God's ways. What follows is a description of the failure of the "mission", the family, the changes that occur in everyone involved. We witness growth and stagnation in these people as they interact with their surroundings and the people they live alongside in p ...more
I began reading this book with hesitancy and a good portion of discernment. It had been recommended by a non-Christian co-worker as a good book for me to read since "you want to become a missionary." I'm really glad I read it though. There are a number of things I really appreciated about the book.

I really liked how the author, Barbara Kingsolver, told the story through the eyes of each of the characters. She was able to pull off a consistent and believable use of a different storytelling voice
Mar 01, 2008 Alissa rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to learn about Africa
I usually love Barbara Kingsolver (although I think she's gotten a bit self-important, but that's another story), and of course I was looking forward to this book. I learned some about Africa, and I appreciated all her research.

But her characters were false. It was as though Kingsolver had decided what each character would represent and then forced each one to adhere to that representation. For example, one character is supposed to represent Americans in all their materialism and lack of unders
Will Byrnes
In late 1950s Congo, an American missionary arrives with his family intent on bringing enlightenment to the savages. The experiences of the family are told by the preacher’s wife, Orleanna and their four daughters, the vain Rachel, twins Leah, who is devoted to her father, and Adah, damaged at birth but more aware than anyone realizes, and the baby, Ruth Ann. The events take place during a period when Congo was eager to cast off its colonial chains and we see some of the details of events of the ...more
The Poisonwood Bible was certainly one of the best narratives about Africa that I have read in a very very long time. I give it five stars for the excellent research, writing style, narrative and insight. As a novel it managed to include a wealth of information on interpersonal relationships, political and religious issues and African culture. It took some guts to pinpoint the issues between different races, cultures and countries involved in Africa in such a way that the truth, which is undersc ...more
Sally Howes
Listen. Listen and you may hear a story that took thirty years to incubate. Listen. Listen and you may hear a true modern-day epic, spanning continents and lifetimes. Listen. Listen and you may hear a faint but distinct African lament, one of an uncountable number, but one that should be heard. Listen. Listen and you may meet five women whose time with you may be fleeting but whose memory may keep you company for the rest of your life, if only you will listen to them now.

That single-word injunct
"Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.
First, picture the forest. I want you to be its conscience, the eyes in the trees. The trees are columns of slick, brindled bark like muscular animals overgrown beyond all reason. Every space is filled with life: delicate, poisonous frogs war-painted like skeletons, clutched in copulation, secreting their own precious eggs onto dripping leaves. Vines stragling their own kin in the everlasting wrestle for sunlight. The breathing of monkeys.
Tea Jovanović
Prelepa knjiga, sjajan prevod Gorana Kapetanovica :)
A friend told me this was the most powerful novel she had ever read, so with that kind of endorsement, (and as I later learned, it was an Orpah selection in 2000), I decided to give it a go.

I found it to be well crafted and dense. A mother and four daughters, each with a distinctive personality and voice, take turns giving their particular perspectives on the story of how their family, led by the fire-and-brimstone Free Baptist preaching father of this Georgia clan, ventured into the deepest Con
This book has done nothing to change my opinion that all missionaries belong in large black kettles, boiling slowly over an open flame, while the natives they had hoped to convert stand hungrily by, waiting for a hearty meal.

Though technically a minor character in the book, patriarch Nathan Price looms large over his small tribe of women. With no regard for the well-being of his family, he drags his wife and four daughters to deepest Africa, because, of course, he is on a mission from God. Pric
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Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist, and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in Africa in her early childhood. Kingsolver earned degrees in Biology at DePauw University and the University of Arizona and worked as a freelance writer before she began writing novels. Her most famous works include The Poisonwood Bible, the tale of a missionary family in the Congo, ...more
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“Don’t try to make life a mathematics problem with yourself in the center and everything coming out equal. When you’re good, bad things can still happen. And if you’re bad, you can still be lucky.” 2976 likes
“Listen. Slide the weight from your shoulders and move forward. You are afraid you might forget, but you never will. You will forgive and remember.” 418 likes
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