Thursday, January 14, 2010

Book Review

I thought I would do a post on The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver after having finished it last week. This book had been on my list of things to read for quite a while, and I finally got to it.

My feelings on the book are mixed.

The story is about a missionary family from Georgia who move to the Belgian Congo in 1959 to start a mission there. The story follows the family through the tumultuous times in the Congo during its difficult birth into independence and the family's adjustment into life in the Congo and follows each womans life until the end. It is narrated by the mother, Orleanna Price and the 4 daughters, Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth May.

Needless to say the Prices have a hard time embracing their life in Africa, but continue to trudge on at the insistence of their father, the baptist minister Nathan. Nathan is the enemy here, he represents insensitivity and ignorance not only to the entire village but to his entire family, including his wife.

I had a hard time getting into this book at first. It was a little slow to me in the beginning. I found that I didn't really connect with the characters and I actually didn't really like many of their personalities. However, once I got into the story and finished it I can look back and say that I really appreciate the growth in each character.

Leah grew into a woman with a deeper meaning than herself; she found wisdom and learned what love is. Adah grew in courage and independence, and embraced sympathy for others, especially her mother. Orleanna grew into herself after a long battle with her marriage to Nathan and her stunted growth from their relationship. The only person who didn't really grow was Rachel, she seemed clueless the entire time that anything had any meaning at all. She was only interested in what she could do for herself, and judged her own growth by the things she possesed; throughout her entire life that never changed for her. I wish that Kingsolver had written a bit more about Nathan as a person. Nathan, the father had many personal problems of his own stemming from his past and I would have been more interested to know about him; maybe writing a chapter narrated by him? He seemed so complex but instead of get to understand his complexities and look deeper into his own handicap we just learn to hate him. But maybe that's the point, the wife and daughters of Nathan Price don't understand his issues or look at him as a deep person, they just don't like him.

Each character started out handicapped in some way, either figuratively or literally as in Adah's case. By the end of the novel the characters either embraced their handicap (Rachel, Nathan) or overcame it.

I didn't find this book a page turner, but it was one I wanted to stick with just to see how each character ended up. I didn't fall in love with anyone in the book but I was rooting for them the whole way. I really enjoyed Kingsolver's parallel between the lives of the characters in their struggle for indpendence and that of the Congo. Throughout the whole book the Congo has its own handicap and it is fighting to overcome it just like each person in the Price family; but there are those who are unwilling to accept their problems and find solutions, the leader of the Congo, Mobutu and Rachel respectively.

It was an interesting book and I would reccomend it; but, do some research beforehand on the history of the Congo if you are unfamiliar, it would give the story more depth. The book was well written and the insight the author provides into each character by the end of the novel makes it worth reading.

It's a book you have to stick with to get anything out of it. I liked it, but I didn't love it. There have been books I have read I was truly sad were over but this one was not like that for me.

Anyone else read it and have an opinion?


  1. Thanks for what seems like a very honest review. Joseph,

  2. I read it. I was entertained at the beginning. My assessment was that while it's the best Kingsolver I've read, at its core I found it trite. I have the same critique of most of her books.