Reverand Nathan Price brought his woefully unprepared family to a small village in the former Belgian Congo to do missionary work in 1959. The people...moreReverand Nathan Price brought his woefully unprepared family to a small village in the former Belgian Congo to do missionary work in 1959. The people speak Kikongo, a language where a word has multiple meanings, depending on its intonation. When the Reverand Price thunders, "Tata Jesus is bangala", meaning "precious", his intonation changes the word into "the poisonwood tree", a poisonous plant that causes skin eruptions. That is just one of many mistakes this arrogant preacher makes in The Poisonwood Bible. He is also clueless about why the villagers refuse to have their children baptized by immersion in a river full of crocodiles.
The story is told through narrations by his wife, Orleanna, and their four daughters. Orleanna helps us understand the source of Nathan's problems, their history back in Georgia, and the role of mothers in the Congo. The oldest daughter is Rachel, a self-absorbed, materialistic teen, whose malapropisms are a source of amusement. The youngest is Ruth May who befriends the village children, but who is in the most danger from diseases and other threats. In the middle are the twins, Leah and Adah. Leah is the social conscience of the novel. Adah limps and very rarely speaks, but writes her feelings in her diary. She has an intelligent, sarcastic wit, and often records events in palindromic phrases.
The author lived in the Belgian Congo as a child, and has woven political and cultural problems into the story. Colonial governments were paternalistic, and worked the Africans in rubber plantations and mines as indentured laborers. After the Congo declared independence, foreign governments played a part in the assassination of the Congo's elected leader. Barbara Kingsolver was a great storyteller, while also showing social injustice, cultural divisions, and religious differences in the Congo.(less)
Twin boys, Marion and Shiva Stone, are orphaned when their mother dies in childbirth. They are the children of British surgeon Dr Thomas Stone and an...moreTwin boys, Marion and Shiva Stone, are orphaned when their mother dies in childbirth. They are the children of British surgeon Dr Thomas Stone and an Indian nun who was his surgical assistant at a mission hospital in Ethiopia. The distraught Dr Stone disappears, leaving the boys to be adopted by a loving Indian couple, both doctors at the hospital.
Much of the book is told from the point of view of Marion. The boys share the special bond of twins so that sometimes Marion thinks of them as one entity, ShivaMarion. The book tells the story of their lives during which Ethiopia goes through several regime changes. Betrayals and secrets haunt their lives, and drive a wedge between them.
The author infuses the book with the sights, smells, and rhythms of Ethiopia. Abraham Verghese is also a doctor, and he shows us the beauty and despair of medicine in both a Third World country and the United States, where Marion does his surgical residency. The book is superb with compelling characters, exotic locations, and a good story. I considered the medical descriptions a definite highlight, but they might bother some readers.(less)
Little Bee is a young Nigerian refugee in London who shares one fateful day in her history in Nigeria with Sarah, a British magazine editor. The story...moreLittle Bee is a young Nigerian refugee in London who shares one fateful day in her history in Nigeria with Sarah, a British magazine editor. The story is told from the points of view of both strong women as Little Bee recounts her escape from Nigeria, and Sarah tries to put her own life together while also helping Little Bee. The book is extremely well-written, and I could not put it down.(less)
Amelia Peabody, a strong-willed independent English woman, planned a trip to Egypt in the 1880s to enjoy an inheritance. In a stop in Rome, she rescue...moreAmelia Peabody, a strong-willed independent English woman, planned a trip to Egypt in the 1880s to enjoy an inheritance. In a stop in Rome, she rescued the abandoned Evelyn Forbes and took her as a companion to Egypt. While exploring the tombs along the Nile, the two women meet the Emerson brothers who are excavating a site. They get involved in a mystery involving a mummy that disappeared from a tomb, then appeared in their camp at night. Amelia has more adventure than she was planning on her Egyptian trip. This is an enjoyable cozy mystery, full of humor, good descriptions of Egypt, and a touch of romance.(less)
Alexandra Fuller has written a powerful memoir about growing up in the African countries of Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia. The story is infused with th...moreAlexandra Fuller has written a powerful memoir about growing up in the African countries of Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia. The story is infused with the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of the farms they lived on. The Fullers lived under very poor and sometimes unhealthy conditions, but it still was much better than what was experienced by most black Africans. The family also had the heartbreak of the deaths of several of their children which sent Alexandra's mother into a deep depression after each tragic event. Although the areas where they resided were dangerous, especially during the wars for independence, her family has a true love for Africa.
The author was taught racist attitudes as a child of white settlers, but that seemed to change to more respect for the black African traditions and more empathy for them as people as the book progressed. I got the feeling the author tried to be very true in describing the actual conditions in those countries. This memoir was interesting, well-written, and humorous.(less)
This book is a prequel to Alexandra Fuller's previous book, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. It tells the story of Nicola Fuller, the author's moth...moreThis book is a prequel to Alexandra Fuller's previous book, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. It tells the story of Nicola Fuller, the author's mother, who was born in Scotland and grew up in Kenya. Nicola was an artistic, humorous, courageous woman with a passion for animals, especially horses.
Nicola and her husband, Tim Fuller, have a love of Africa. The author writes, "Land is Mum's love affair and it is Dad's religion." They moved from farm to farm from Kenya to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to Zambia during the time when colonial rule was ending. During that time they lived through wars and the tragic deaths of three young children. The violent end of colonialism is told through the eyes of a white English/Scotch family.
Now, Nicola and Tim are in Zambia operating a fish farm along a river, growing bananas, and raising sheep. They enjoy relaxing at the end of the day under a special tree on their property planted by the headmen in their village. The Tree of Forgetfulness holds the ancestors inside it. If there is sickness or trouble, you sit underneath the Tree of Forgetfulness and your ancestors help you resolve your problems. Their time in Zambia has been a healing time for them.
The beginning of this book might be a little confusing to someone who has not read the author's previous book. But then it turns into a very readable story of her mother that is admiring, honest, and humorous.(less)
I spent some time as an armchair traveler to Kruger, a huge wildlife sanctuary in northeastern South Africa. People come to Kruger for the wildlife si...moreI spent some time as an armchair traveler to Kruger, a huge wildlife sanctuary in northeastern South Africa. People come to Kruger for the wildlife sightings, the beautiful scenery, photography, birding, and to study botany. There is also ancient rock art made by San hunter-gatherers which can be seen on special tours. Africa gave birth to humanity itself, and Kruger has items of archeological interest in areas that were occupied by humans as far back as the early Stone Age. Geology plays an important role in determining what kind of wildlife will thrive in various areas since underlying balsalt, which retains water, leads to the growth of good, sweet grass.
My favorite parts of the book were the inserts with photographs of the wild game with interesting comments about the various species. Kruger is a wonderful place to go on safari armed with a camera.(less)
Katharine Hepburn wrote a light, amusing book about filming "The African Queen" in the Belgium Congo and Uganda. She and Humphrey Bogart were the big...moreKatharine Hepburn wrote a light, amusing book about filming "The African Queen" in the Belgium Congo and Uganda. She and Humphrey Bogart were the big stars in the film directed by John Huston in 1951. They had to film this black and white movie along African rivers without falling in to get snapped up by waiting crocodiles or infected by some African parasite. Hepburn signed on to star in "The African Queen" because she wanted to see the country, and she enjoyed the African people and the beautiful countryside. She also almost got run over by a herd of elephants during a safari day, armed only with a camera.
The actress wrote as if she was having a conversation with the reader while they sat down to have tea, and I could almost hear her voice in my mind as I read. I also enjoyed seeing the wonderful photographs.(less)
This is an excellent murder mystery by Agatha Christie set in Egypt about a couple honeymooning on a cruise boat in Egypt. I enjoyed spending the day...moreThis is an excellent murder mystery by Agatha Christie set in Egypt about a couple honeymooning on a cruise boat in Egypt. I enjoyed spending the day reading about Hercule Poirot solving the case while traveling on the Nile. The killer was a surprise at the end.(less)
Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi have another bunch of cases to investigate, and many observations to make about life. As usual, Mme Ramotswe relie...morePrecious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi have another bunch of cases to investigate, and many observations to make about life. As usual, Mme Ramotswe relies quite a bit on her intuition and common sense. The book is enjoyable, warm, and gently humorous. The author shows a good understanding of human nature, and a love of Botswana.(less)