Meghan's Reviews > The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
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Apr 25, 08

Read in January, 2008

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 culture superior, is Christianity superior, is democracy superior, is wealth superior to poverty? Each character answers these questions differently. How our actions or inactions affect other people is another commentary this novel addresses. The story brings up ethical issues that arise in getting involved with other countries: do we do it because we believe we are superior or to exploit their resources or to sincerely try to help other people have a better life? Lots of interesting things to think about in this book.
Here is the synopsis from Amazon.com: As any reader of The Mosquito Coast knows, men who drag their families to far-off climes in pursuit of an Idea seldom come to any good, while those familiar with At Play in the Fields of the Lord or Kalimantaan understand 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 in The 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 part of The Poisonwood Bible revolves around Nathan's intransigent, bullying personality and his effect on both his family and the village they have come to. As political instability grows in the Congo, so does the local witch doctor's animus toward the Prices, and both seem to converge with tragic consequences about halfway through the novel. From that point on, the family is dispersed and the novel follows each member's fortune across a span of more than 30 years.
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message 1: by Angie (new)

Angie Meghan,
Great comment. I read this book last year and it's now one of my top five favorite books. The questions the book posed were a little humbling, and your comment about what is superior really nailed what the book's theme was for me. It made me grateful and ashamed at the same time. . . grateful for how comfortable my life is, and ashamed for buying things that exploit others, and ashamed for ever thinking my life is hard.
Angie.


Gwen Haaland Meghan, I like your review. Glad to see that you appreciated this masterpiece as much as I did!


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