Thursday, May 23, 2013

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible

Barbara Kingsolver

653 pgs, 1998

Purchases book

Summary from Goodreads

In 1959, Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist, takes his four young daughters, his wife, and his mission to the Belgian Congo -- a place, he is sure, where he can save needy souls. But the seeds they plant bloom in tragic ways within this complex culture. Set against one of the most dramatic political events of the twentieth century -- the Congo's fight for independence from Belgium and its devastating consequences -- here is "New York Times-bestselling author Barbara Kingslover's beautiful, heartbreaking, and unforgettable epic that chronicles the disintegration of family and a nation.

My Thoughts

As it states in the Goodreads description, Nathan Price decides he has been called to a mission in the Congo and drags his wife and four daughters along with him for what is suppose to be a year.  There are seven sections of the book and the first chapter of each section is in first person from Orleana's perspective looking back on things.  Then the rest of the book is written in alternating chapters from each of the daughter's perspectives in real time.  

The oldest daughter is Rachel at sixteen.  Rachel is vain and ignorant.  At the beginning of the book I was forgiving of her vainity and inaneness - honestly what sixteen year old would be happy about being forced to leave high school and go to the Congo.  Next are the twins Leah and Adah.  Leah is smart, but desperately wants her father's approval and can never quite figure out how to get it.  Adah was born with hemiplegia - half her brain was essential dead when she was born.  As a result she can't speak and one side of her body doesn't work, BUT she can read and write and we learn very quickly from her chapters that she is VERY smart.  Finally Ruth May is the baby.  As the book progresses some of the characters grow from their experiences in the Congo and others cling to the beliefs and stereotypes they came in with and it's fascinating to read as that unfolds.

I'm not going to attempt to get into the plot, because there's just too much to it.  

Kingsolver is brilliant at creating unique voices for each narrator.  Most of the time I find first person books written from alternating perspectives frustrating, but I could open the book up and read a random paragraph and know who’s perspective I’m reading.  The writing is beautiful and descriptive, but it was a harder read for me and took a solid 6 weeks of reading from time to time to finish (but I always wanted to).

My Ratings

Enjoyability (3 out of 5 stars)
Relationships (5 out of 5 stars)
Writing (5 out of 5 stars)

This book will stay with me forever.

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