The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is a book
about Africa, so it is filled with pain and suffering. A
painful trip and a painful acceptance.
In the beginning the Price family grew up in Alabama. Since
Father Price was a preacher, they had to preach the Good
Word to everyone. Father Price also served in WWII, where
he escaped being killed and felt guilty about it for the
rest of his life. It is kind of like original sin because
all of his children suffered for it, too.
Then came the exodus to Africa. This is where they would be
tested to see how faithful they would be. At least that is
what dear old dad thought. They tried to adjust to the lack
of food, general dearth of convieniences, and the abundance
of superstition. Orleana, the mother, started to adjust.
When their first year was up and they decided to stay
following the liberation of the Congo, the girls thought
this was just too much. They started to figure out that dad
was a little off his rocker, and they all reacted
differently to it. Mom became beligerant, often talking
back to her husband. Rachel, the oldest, threatened to do
whatever it took to get off the continent and back to
America. Leah took up hunting and other manly adventures.
Adah tried to stay alive. Ruth May got bitten by a snake
That is when everything fell apart. After giving away all
of her stuff, Orleana took all of the girls and left town.
They all went different directions and preached their own
gospel to everyone they met. Rachel preached greed. Leah
preached compasion and not enforcing your own will on
others. Adah preached acceptance and the rule of nature.
They all ended up as prophets of some kind.
It was interesting seeing how the girls changed through the
book. Orleana seemed to have a single moment of chagne that
highlighed her life. Two at the most. The first when they
were forced to stay in the Congo following independence.
The second when Ruth May died. Other than that, she was a
fairly static character that merely commented on what was
Rachel was bitter throughout the book. Her refusal to
consider the needs of others was quite remarkable, and her
selfishness was highlighted. She was naive, but she was
supposed to be. That is what made her vital to the story.
Suffering can change people if they let it. Rachel simply
wouldn't let it change her more than necessary.
Leah accepted challenges as they came, and that is why she
took up hunting. The village needed more hunters, and she
volunteered despite custom and tradition. She came to see
the imporatnce of people and what needs to be done to
survive. As a mother and wife, she was torn between
returning to America to be comfortable and supporting her
husband who needed to help his people. She didn't feel
welcomed in America because of her husband and children, and
she didn't want to live without them. She wasn't welcomed
in Africa because of the color of her skin. It is racism
Adah was more difficult. She was persecuted growing up
because of her disability. Yet her disability made her
successful later, and she regretted overcoming her
disability. She felt like she lost part of herself. She
really wanted to be loved and accepted. She felt betrayed
by her mother when she was abandoned, but when she was
chosen later and learned why she was able to accept that it
was all based on age and who needed the most help. She
became a very bitter person.
Overall, I thought the book was too long. There was too
much set up time before the action, and I just wanted about
200 pages in the middle to disappear. The foreshadowing was
well done, and there were surprises in the book (I thought
more of the children would die) that kept me going, but I
still wanted it to move a little faster.