Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible was released in 1998. I never really heard about until a couple of years ago, when I saw it during my wanders through various book stores. I found the summary interesting, but I still never bought a copy until Nov 2009, at my local, ABC Books in Courtenay, BC.

From then it languished somewhat on my To-Be-Read bookshelves with all of my others. This past year I chose it as one of my 12 + 2 Reading Group Challenge books. I finally got to it at the end of June. I'm so glad that I finally read the story; what a fantastic tale.

This is the blurb on the back of my edition.

"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 post colonial 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.Taking its place alongside classic works of post colonial literature, this ambitious novel establishes Kingsolver as one of the most thoughtful and daring of modern writers."

In some ways, I don't think the write-up does the story justice. But if it makes you pick up the book and give it a try, then it's succeeded and you will find a fascinating story before you. The four girls, Rachel, the oldest, Leah and Adah, the twins and Ruth May, the youngest, are each interesting and different in their own right. Their perspectives of the momentous events unfolding about them are unique and different. While these momentous events are highlighted and form the basis for their lives, the story, itself, is much more personal; how this family must cope (or not) after their move from Georgia to a small village in the Congolese jungle. How these girls must cope with a sometimes tyrannical and, often, unforgiving, uncaring father forms a backdrop to the story of their lives in Kingala. The story is sometimes frightening, sometimes touching and poignant. There is great tragedy, rebirth, adjustment and growth. At times, I felt my heart was breaking. It isn't a happy story, by any means, there is great sadness, that being experienced on a very personal level by the girls and their mother and that on a grander scale being experienced by the Congolese people as they are pulled one way and another by the political events around them.

This is a great story, one definitely worth reading. I totally recommend.
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