Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Author: Sherry Helms

A Bestselling novel by Barbara Kingsolver is about a missionary family, the Prices who in 1959 moved from Georgia to the village of Kilanga in the Belgian Congo.  The Price’s story is narrated by the five women of the family: Orleanna, long suffering wife of the Baptist missionary Nathan Price and their four daughters- Rachel, Leah, Adah, Ruth May.

The overzealous Baptist minister named Nathan Price in drags his wife and four daughters deep into the heart of the Congo in 1959 on a mission to save the unenlightened souls of Africa. From the outset, the attitudes of these five women cover a wide spectrum of the novel. The mother Orleanna passively accepts the turn of events as he accepts everything her husband tells her. Rachael, a 15 year old beauty queen resents her separation from normal teen life. Adventurer Ruth May who is just five years old is both excited and frightened. It is only 14 years old Leah who shares her father’s ardent religious faith is enthusiastic.  Leah’s twin Adah, a cripple and mute by birth but also a brilliant observer, merely views the move as she does all of her life with a wry and cynical detachment.

One thing that the women share is the unwavering faith that they are carrying with them a culture far superior to the one that already exists in the village of Kilanga and that they will therefore will be masters of their new domain. Kingsolver does a good job in differentiating the voices of all the five female characters. Her fully realized three-dimensional characters make the book a compelling read, especially the first part when the Nathan Price is still at the centre of the action.  The Poison wood Bible is  arguably the most ambitious novel by Barbara Kingsolver.

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