The Poisonwood Bible The Poisonwood Bible discussion


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The Title

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message 1: by She-Who-Reads (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:39AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

She-Who-Reads What do you all think of the title of this book? Personally, I thought it was great -- when I got to the section at the end when Adah was talking about how she collected Bibles with misprints, I had an "Oh!" moment. The novel got its title from Nathan Price's error in his sermon: "Tata Jesus is bangala," a word that could mean precious, but pronounced the way he said it meant "poisonwood." That is a perfect title; it is exactly what this book is about -- the way certain things get lost in the translation between cultures.


Lani i totally agree w/ u

haha camels instead of damsels

i loved in ruth may's first little chapter thingi shes like "nd all the sinners drowneded"

haha funnyy

i loved this book nd comletly agree with ur idea on the title . "mr jesus is poisonwood" boy did nathan mess up there. i bet all the village ppl lafed @ him behind him nd his familys back


message 3: by Al- (new) - rated it 5 stars

Al- The title coulden't be more perfect... so many analogies there... something precious to one is destructive to another, an outsider seeing it can "save" you not noticing himself being saved by the pitiful, just perfect. This is one of my 5 top books. I love how it can tell the same story through different eyes, each having a different experience and judgements. However, although perfect, I wish the title were different... so many people have told me they have no interest in ever reading somehting so disrespectful to their scripture.


Lani its true that the title can be quote not nice unquote to some ppl.

i dont mind. but i no alot of ppl that wood


Jennifer W That's a shame, Al, because the title is not meant to be disrespectful, it's meant to showcase how people don't always say and do the things they mean to, even though they have good intentions. I don't doubt Nathan's intentions were good, however, he, like so many westerners then and now, don't understand the culture they're sticking their noses into. I love this book, I wish I'd read it years earlier than I did, but I would recommend this book to anyone who likes books about family issues, global issues, or African history.


Christine I loved the part in the book about how the family always remembered peoples names based on the shirt they wore (because they always wore the same shirt, for the most part). This made me laugh because when I read this book, I was living in Kenya, and it was the same for me. Whenever someone would change their shirt I had a hard time searching my brain for their name! After a while this stopped, but it was funny to read the same experience in a book.


Annalisa I think the title is the perfect choice showing the inability to bridge the cultural messages and how the African culture is bound to want to meld its beliefs to Price's message instead of take it to override them.
I thought the parallels between the Bible and the Price family clever and in no way disrespectful. I do however think Kingsolver's disdain for Christianity and its oppression obvious. I don't think anyone should be offended by the name, but I her message is harsh. I'm not saying it bothered me, I just think she could have been softer in her portrayal of the minister.


message 8: by Pam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam I don't think that Kingsolver has disdain for Christianity at all! The character of Brother Fowles, with his respect for the African culture and love of the people and the land serves as an example of how Christianity can benefit people. I would argue that Brother Fowles uses scripture to show love and tolerance while Nathan uses his religion to punish, shame and deny people their dignity. It seems to me that the religion that Nathan preaches is anti-chrisianity. Because they are not "the good shoots grafted to the strong root of Africa"(p. 251) Nathan's religion, and the politics of Belguim and later Eisenhower are weeds in this territory, like the Poisonwood Tree. Like Nathan's failed garden, Western society has tried to plant crops that will not adapt to the African climate.


Annalisa Pam: I like your input. I did like the opposing approaches of the ministers (ministers not preachers right? it's been several years since I've read the book) but in some ways I felt he was just as useless because I didn't remember the people having a true grasp of Christianity from him. Did I remember that correctly? That the ministers were extremes one stubbornly teaching without listening the other serving without much teaching? I remember thinking one should fall in the middle somewhere. I really should reread this book. I really do love it.

I suppose my opinion comes from her not giving Nathan a voice (I should start a discussion about that), making him so unyielding and in the end cruel, as well as from some of her other literature. I felt like she was saying Christians shouldn't convert other cultures, ever, but let them be. But you're right. It's no so much a disdain for Christianity as an annoyance of those who try to conform those to their views without seeing value in other cultural views and Christianity has a long history of that. Which as you said is actually anti-Christian. So I guess what I mean is not that she's against religion in general but the intolerant way many choose to interpret it.


message 10: by Jodi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jodi I chuckled when I read where the title came from for this book. I don't think it was meant to be disrespectful but rather to show how clueless and insensitive Nathan was to the needs and beliefs of his congregation in the Congo. Yes, he wanted to convert them to Christianity but he needed to do it with more understanding and respect of the local customs. Had he been a little more aware of how the people in Kilanga lived, they might have responded better to him. He needed to respect their beliefs while sharing what he believed.


message 11: by Pam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam As I remember, Brother Fowles said that he had not made many changes, but he did talk to the elders, not about putting aside their second and third wives, not about wearing clothing, but about Jesus teaching that people should be kind to one another. He said, that while he did not baptize many, when he counselled the men not to beat their wives, that he saw many shrines to Jesus beginning to appear in the women's houses. Brother Fowles main failure, to his church, it would seem, was allowing himself to be changed by Africa.

I agree that it would be interesting to hear Nathan tell the story in his own voice. How did he become so harsh and inflexible?


message 12: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa James He became hard & inflexible because of his military experience in the Phillippines, when due to a complete fluke, he was the only one of his unit to survive the Bataan Death March because he was wounded. After that, he was mentally "on guard" 24/7, & had his own ghosts that haunted him every minute of every day. he became a TOTAL perfectionist, believing that if it hadn't been for his mistake, he'd have died with his brothers in arms. Therefore, he treated Orleanna & his family harshly because he wanted them to be perfect as well. He became a twisted man, which was very sad to see.


message 13: by Cheryl (last edited Aug 04, 2011 08:46AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cheryl I thought the title was/is perfect just like the rest of the book. I read this a few years back and it still haunts me...the ending produced sobs - this is by far one of the greatest books I've ever read.


Regina I think the title is a perfect fit for the book. This will forever be one of the books that sticks in my mind both as a favorite due to the enjoyment I got out of reading it, and the lessons I took away from it. I love the fact that it is written from different perspectives, and reading everyone's comments here made me realize that it may be time to go back to this for another read. I particularly love the almost mystical presence of the okapi, a creature unknown to the Western world until surprisingly recently. It shows just how much can be unknown by outsiders and the rest of the book shows the damage that can occur when we stop trying to understand and appreciate the unknown and unfamiliar.


message 15: by Ron (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ron Voigts Masterfully done! Very view writers could have written multiple point of views in the first person with distinct voices and succeed. Kingsolver at her best.


Scotti Maybe my all time favorite book. And as soon as they discovered the poisonwood plant, I knew the title was perfect.


Annie One of my all time favorite books -- the title is ironic and beautiful. Most of Kingsolver's novels are outstanding. A book like Poinsonwood adds joy to life!


Cheryl Scotti wrote: "Maybe my all time favorite book. And as soon as they discovered the poisonwood plant, I knew the title was perfect."

I know, right?? I couldn't imagine why she chose this particular title, but when she introduced the plant it all made perfect sense. Calling it anything else wouldn't have worked, imho. I used to write for a hobby many years ago, and I would find that I *had* to have a title before I began any story. To me, it's the most important part of the book - the glue that holds everything else together.

I know a lot of people work conversely - writing the story, *then* choosing a title....but that would be too difficult for me. I'm a linear writer - only my emotions seem to function in a true non-linear fashion! LOL


message 19: by Zoe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zoe Saadia One of my favorite books!!!
Aside from the fascinating and amazingly complicated plot, the overview of the political situation around the time the European Powers were finally forced to leave Africa (well, not really, as the story shows :-/), was invaluable (for me).
A mine of an interesting information, wrapped in a fascinating story - what more can one ask? :)


Laura DiSilverio Virginia wrote: "I let this book sit for years. When I finally started it, I found it absorbing and interesting. But it left me kind of cold. Like where did it really go and what journey did it take me on? Mayb..."

I got a similar feeling, Virginia. I think the emphasis moving from the family situation to the political situation distanced me too much. I will admit, though, that even years after reading the book, I'm still haunted by the youngest girl being killed by the mamba.


Karen I enjoyed this book very much. I don't care much for Kingslover over all but I have read several of her books. The Poisonwood Bible is probably her best one.


Laura DiSilverio Have you ever read her essay collection, High Tide in Tucson? My dad gave it to me for a graduation (I think) and I really enjoyed them (more than her fiction, in some ways).


Karen Laura wrote: "Have you ever read her essay collection, High Tide in Tucson? My dad gave it to me for a graduation (I think) and I really enjoyed them (more than her fiction, in some ways)."

No, I haven't read it. I have read articles of hers in various magazines. They're usually pretty good. I'll have to check it out. Thanks.


Kathy Hale Missionaries often tried to inflict their culture on the culture they are going to. This started with everyone fromSt. Pstrick to the Irish and those to the Goths and northern tribes to India and Africa by the British.


Kathy Hale I also liked conflict of the relationahups between the girls, and their parents.


Joanne I liked the book very much, and do not think the title was disrespectful.


Marianne Laura wrote: "Have you ever read her essay collection, High Tide in Tucson? My dad gave it to me for a graduation (I think) and I really enjoyed them (more than her fiction, in some ways)."

Loved both High Tide in Tucson essays (another one where, when you read where the title comes from you LOL) and Small Wonder essays, but I have loved most of her writing. I actually preferred Prodigal Summer to Poisonwood Bible, maye because the ending was more uplifting, but also loved Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven and Animal Dreams.
And I thought the title very fitting on PB


Megan She-Who-Reads wrote: "What do you all think of the title of this book? Personally, I thought it was great -- when I got to the section at the end when Adah was talking about how she collected Bibles with misprints, I h..."

Yes, it's a very appropriate title!


Clark Carlton I love, love, love this book and read it twice. The title is an excellent one because it refers not just to problems of translation but to unbridgeable cultural differences. Nathan, whose eyes are so blind, is using all the metaphors and similes in the Bible which are pastoral and agricultural. He refers to animals and crops the Congolese have no familiarity with as they are hunters and gatherers. Nathan's own vegetable garden fails because there are no bees to pollinate it. One of my favorite moments is when the Congolese revolt against the idea of baptizing their children in the river because it sounds more like sacrificing them to the crocodiles. One issue the author reminds us about is the colonization of other nations was justified as a means of converting their "ignorant" natives to The One True Religion -- their souls were being saved as their labor was being exploited and their lands and resources stolen from them. But the other issue that Ms. Kingsolver did not shrink from was the static nature of the Congolese, the fatalism in their attitude which perpetuates their poverty and disease and their own dysfunctional governments. The book has equal criticism for all. It's a fascinating and colorful can of worms she opens and many conclusions can be drawn. The title really drew me to this book and works very well.


Scotti Clark wrote: "I love, love, love this book and read it twice. The title is an excellent one because it refers not just to problems of translation but to unbridgeable cultural differences. Nathan, whose eyes ar..."
I completely agree with you. The title is perfect. And I think the right title and right cover are important. This has to be in my top 5 all time favorite books. Has she written another that you think is equally good? I read a sample of "The Bean Tree", and "Pigs in Heaven," but couldn't get into them. Did I not read far enough?


Clark Carlton Scotti, I am with you again. I have tried her other books and just couldn't get into them either. The setting of Poisonwood was so fascinating as well as the characters and the story kept getting more interesting.


MaryKay I have to point out that The Poisonwood Bible is one of the books being distributed on World Book Night (April 23, 2012).

http://www.goodreads.com/book_news_po...


Sharon The title was just right.This will be one of my favorite all time books.


Tiffany I loved this book, and the title was a perfect fit. I think anyone who is too close-minded to open the book because they see the title as disrespectful wouldn't have an open enough mind to fully appreciate the book anyway. I think Kingsolver does a beautiful job of delicately delving into some very controversial and touchy subjects, but if one is of the mindset that a book titled "The Poisonwood Bible" must be either disrespectful or evil, there is no room for open discussion and thoughtful reading for that person anyway.


Sarah This is exactly why I loved the title because when u get to this scene in the book it is perfect and makes u giggle.


message 36: by Meh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Meh I really like the title not only because a)it's fun to say, b) it really makes you think, and c) it highlights the change that overcomes the whole family in relation to their religion.


Diana Howard This has become my favorite book - beautifully written and rendered. It captures all the pitfalls, the tragedy and the hilarity of well intentioned but ignorant missionaries. What a harsh, vibrant life is depicted there in the Congo of the 60s, 70s, 80s. And all this through the eyes of the 4 very different daughters. Interesting the female only perspectives. Great and thought provoking fiction.


message 38: by Shona (new)

Shona Patel One of the best book titles ever. It sums up the theme so well. I love this book and all its characters.


Elizabeth Rubinsky I agree. Think this title was greatly reflecting on the story and the messenge in it


Debra She-Who-Reads wrote: "What do you all think of the title of this book? Personally, I thought it was great -- when I got to the section at the end when Adah was talking about how she collected Bibles with misprints, I h..."

Agree!


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