Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible

the poisonwood bibleBarbara Kingsolver is an author I discovered thanks to my daughter. After reading Pigs in Heaven, I bought every book she had written that I could find in our local used bookstore. I’m certain that Kingsolver herself would be proud of my thriftiness. A champion of the marginalized in our cultural and natural environments, her work has a message. A message that is skillfully delivered by way of her impeccable storytelling.

The most lengthy novel that I read by Ms. Kingsolver (546 pages) was The Poisonwood Bible (1998). A Pulitzer Prize nominee for Fiction in 1999, it is a work of epic proportions, and I kept at it a few pages at a time, chewing and digesting its dramatic unfolding for days. It is an absorbing experience that sucks you in and creates a spot for you alongside her memorable missionary family. They experience family life as individual foreign objects in a Belgian Congo village, the narrative held together by the efforts of the five female family members: the wife and four daughters.

Verlyn Klinkenborg had this to say in The New York Times’ Books section online:

“The Congo permeates ‘The Poisonwood Bible,’ and yet this is a novel that is just as much about America, a portrait, in absentia, of the nation that sent the Prices to save the souls of a people for whom it felt only contempt, people who already, in the words of a more experienced missionary, ‘have a world of God’s grace in their lives, along with a dose of hardship that can kill a person entirely.’ The Congolese are not savages who need saving, the Price women find, and there is nothing passive in their tolerance of missionaries. They take the Americans’ message literally — elections are good, Jesus too — and expose its contradictions by holding an election in church to decide whether or not Jesus shall be the personal god of Kilanga. Jesus loses…’The Poisonwood Bible’ is ultimately a novel of character, a narrative shaped by keen-eyed women contemplating themselves and one another and a village whose familiarity it takes a tragedy to discover.”

This novel is an experience you won’t forget.


About Joan Marie Naszady

I am a learner, a teacher, and a naturalist who enjoys being creative!
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