The Poisonwood Bible

Front Cover
Harper Collins, Oct 7, 1998 - Fiction - 560 pages
2049 Reviews

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

The novel is set against one of the most dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo's fight for independence from Belgium, the murder of its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy. Against this backdrop, Orleanna Price reconstructs the story of her evangelist husband's part in the Western assault on Africa, a tale indelibly darkened by her own losses and unanswerable questions about her own culpability. Also narrating the story, by turns, are her four daughters—the self-centered, teenaged Rachel; shrewd adolescent twins Leah and Adah; and Ruth May, a prescient five-year-old. These sharply observant girls, who arrive in the Congo with racial preconceptions forged in 1950s Georgia, will be marked in surprisingly different ways by their father's intractable mission, and by Africa itself. Ultimately each must strike her own separate path to salvation. Their passionately intertwined stories become a compelling exploration of moral risk and personal responsibility.

Dancing between the dark comedy of human failings and the breathtaking possibilities of human hope, The Poisonwood Bible possesses all that has distinguished Barbara Kingsolver's previous work, and extends this beloved writer's vision to an entirely new level. Taking its place alongside the classic works of postcolonial literature, this ambitious novel establishes Kingsolver as one of the most thoughtful and daring of modern writers.


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Extraordinary writing, poetic and funny and tragic. - LibraryThing
An Oprah selection: liberal woman's rantings. - LibraryThing
Good insight into Africa. - LibraryThing
However, the last 150 pages or so were hard to read. - LibraryThing
Kingsolver's prose is lovely and down to earth. - LibraryThing
He never asked questions or listened to advice. - LibraryThing

Review: The Poisonwood Bible

User Review  - Adrian Fingleton - Goodreads

This was a tough read and in many ways seemed to go on forever. It's a sad tale of a family abandoned in the Congo jungle and a father who is blind to the reality of what is happening around him. You ... Read full review

Review: The Poisonwood Bible

User Review  - Jacqueline Smith - Goodreads

A frighteningly realistic depiction of the Congo. Kingsolver's book is extraordinary in depth and carries throughout its pages a sad, beautiful verse. There is so much to say about this novel and yet it leaves a reader speechless. Would recommend only to the open-minded. Read full review

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About the author (1998)

Barbara Kingsolver's work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned a devoted readership at home and abroad. In 2000 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country's highest honor for service through the arts. She received the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work, and in 2010 won Britain's Orange Prize for The Lacuna. Before she made her living as a writer, Kingsolver earned degrees in biology and worked as a scientist. She now lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

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