October Books 8) The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

I had literally no expectations of this book before I started it, and was interested to discover that it is about an American family in Africa, given that I’m due to go to the continent for the first time myself in two weeks.

The Price family move to the Belgian Congo as Baptist missionaries in mid-1959, against all advice but in line with the sense of mission felt by Nathan, husband and father. The story is told through the perspectives of his wife and three daughters, as the family endures tragedy and disaster, and each of them eventually settles their own terms with Africa and with each other. Nathan Price comes across as an absurdly unsympathetic character, sacrificing his family for his improbable mission, but each of the women gets a good bit of narrative to themselves. Not knowing the DRC, as it now is, I can’t speak to Kingsolver’s accuracy, but she seems to have done her research.

I was struck that a number of write-ups of the book seemed to think that it was about what the US did to Zaire (as it then was) and Africa, when in fact this is simply political backdrop, taken for granted, for the more human drama of the Price sisters and their mother. Having said that, of course the political circumstances shape the environment, and Nathan’s simplistic and disastrous attempts to bring Christianity to the natives are a direct parallel with the American fascinatiom with warding off Communism.

Anyway, a fascinating and thought-provoking read.

One thought on “October Books 8) The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

  1. Thanks for posting this. Been avoiding comments on the subject because I sensed something was wrong and well… as an American I know better than to trust American-based reporting on such things.

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