I loved this book, it took over every spare bit of my life whilst listening to it. The Congo part was interesting and enticing after Congo i believed it lost some interest and intrigue. I loved the narration,and the personalities portrayed. Plus it was a great learning tool about the Congo and the politics of which I knew nothing about.
Decided to listen to this one after listening to "Animal, vegetable, miracle" - did not get disappointed at all! The story is truly incredible and engrossing, even thought it's a totally different subject. Love BK's attention to detail and learned a lot about the history of Congo this time. Couldn't put the audio down and didn't want it to end.
The narrator's voice turned out to be very pleasant to listen as well.
Kingsolver is a skilled artist at weaving words together into a story with texture and color. I always feel enriched after reading one of her novels. The plot doesn't have to be about romance or mystery or history or fantasy. The story doesn't have to have a happy ending or tie up all the loose ends. It just has to connect with the human experience. Kingsolver knows how to connect.
I couldn't get going with the printed copy of this book, but once I started listening to the audio version, I was instantly hooked. The narrator's reading with the Southern accent made the story come alive and I enjoyed listening to all 15+ hours of Barbara Kingsolver's story of Africa.
Retired teacher. Hometown: Eden, NY.
There is something in THE POISONWOOD BIBLE for everyone. Whether it be a probing examination of Christian missionaries in the Belgian Congo, a painfully revealing observation of human relationships, the naked plundering of colonialism's arrogance, the shameful machinations of the "ugly American" in African politics; or conscience and redemption, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE is certain to elevate the reader out of his comfort zone.
It is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a firebrand 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 Betty Crocker cake mixes to 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 events 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. As history unfolds, Orleanna Price reconstructs the story of her evangelist husband's part in the Western assault on Africa, a tale incredibly darkened by 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.
Each character enters the Congo (later renamed Zaire) with preconceived expectations. Rev. Nathan Price, assigned to Kilanga mission, is determined to enlighten the savages and to rule his family with strict biblical sanction. Orleanna readies herself to protect them all from whatever perils may come - from jungle, river, or father and his terrible God. Rachel, fifteen, resents being dropped on "this dread dark shore" far from America's fashions and comforts. "God's Kingdom in its pure, unenlightened glory" epitomizes Leah's involvement in her surroundings. Adah, victim of hemiplegia at birth, limps along and maintains silence. And little Ruth May just faints all the time.
From 1959 through 1998, the Price sisters tell their stories in alternating narratives that reflect their ages as the years pass and the understandings that they achieve. These stories - together with Orleanna's retrospective commentaries - reveal the amazing forty-year saga that the Prices and the Congo share.
THE POISONWOOD BIBLE gradually reveals its binding themes, chief of which is the cultural arrogance of the West. Nathan serves as the personal embodiment of Western pride, unquestioning in his missionary zeal to overturn the ancient traditions of the Congo and replace them with his own religious beliefs. His "demonstration garden" reveals his stultifying hubris that the Congolese are so backward that they have no idea how to grow their own food. It is the United States government, however, that wields its cultural arrogance most dangerously, feeling entitled to assassinate a foreign nation's president (Patrice Lamumba) and replace him with its own greedy puppet ruler.
Brother Fowles, who symbolizes the positive side of Christianity, is the first to introduce the theme of pantheism into the book. Orleanna, herself a former nature worshipper, quickly picks up on this idea and adopts it as her own form of spirituality. Given that cultural arrogance is presented as the great sin of the West and traditional forms of Christianity as one of this sin's primary vehicles, it is not surprising to find pantheism being presented as the spiritual antidote.
Another major theme is how people deal with the burden of guilt. Although the book may be seen as a political allegory, the story it tells focuses on the guilt of five women - for example, their private guilt over the death of a daughter and sister, and their public guilt over the rolled they played in Africa's tragedies. The question is constantly in the foreground: What did our nation do in the Congo, and how should we respond to the fact?
It is through Adah that we receive the revelation of another inescapable primary theme - the impossibility of absolute and unambiguous justice on a global scale. Most of the women who address the issue insist that a complete routing of injustice from the world is impossible. Adah compels us to most closely examine justice in global terms. Absolute justice, she says - at least the crude sort of justice that Westerners believe in - is impossible. We think, for instance that it is unjust that in Africa young babies die of malnutrition and disease. To correct this injustice, we send over doctors to feed and inoculate them. Yet, she points out, the result of this good deed is simply death of a different sort. Overpopulation leads to food shortage, deforestation, and the extinction of species. We cannot change the balance of the world, eliminating all that we consider sad and wrong.
While preparing this review, I made a list of quotations that impressed me with their capacity to reveal the depth of character growth in so few words. I have choses to illustrate with five.
~~ "Maybe I'll even confess the truth, that I rode in with the horsemen and beheld the apocalypse, but still insist I was only a captive witness. What is the conqueror's wife if not a conquest herself?" This quote appears in Orleanna's opening narrative and immediately introduces us to the dominant theme of the book. She suffers paralyzing guilt over her complicity in the death of one of her daughters, and also the overwhelming guilt she suffers because of the crimes perpetrated by the United States against the natives of the Congo.
~~ "The smiling bald man with the grandfather face has another face." When Adah discovers that Dwight Eisenhower, President of the United States, is behind the CIA plot to overthrow the elected government of Congo and assassinate its president, it shows her growing disillusionment with father figures (Nathan, God, and American leaders) that Orleanna and Leah are experiencing. For her, Eisenhower's treachery is not that different from the fact that "Grandfather God" damns children to hell just for being unbaptized.
~~ "I felt the breath of God go cold on my skin." Leah utters this as she rows with Anatole across the river and away from the driver ants. Amid the tumult of escape, Leah and Anatole speak of race and injustice, and Leah finally suffers her ultimate crisis of faith. Moments later she replaces her old faith with a new one, murmuring Anatole's name over an over, feeling that "it took the place of prayer." Her love for Anatole becomes her new anchoring force, replacing that of her father and his simplistic view vision of God.
~~ "In the world, the caring capacity for humans is limited. History holds all things in balance, including large hopes ad short lives." This is Adah's take on the notion of justice. And rather than despair over this state of affairs, she actually stands in awe of it, finding herself rooted no more passionately for the humans than any other of the major players in the global game of survival.
~~ "I am the unmissionary, as Adah would say, beginning every day on my knees asking to be converted." It is Leah expressing her guilt over being born white and American. In contrast to the missionaries, like her father and even her younger self - who sought to make the Africans just like the Westerners, imposing their values on them - Leah wants to assimilate entirely to the African culture around her. Her response is on an active level, to do all she can to minimize injustice. Yet she wants to distance herself as far as possible from those who are responsible for so much of it.
In conclusion, I would rank this novel among the best of contemporary fiction I have read/heard in many years. It has been an experience of vicarious pleasure for me, and if this very VERY senior citizen lives long enough to go to it once again - to be reopened to its cultural and spiritual conflicts, confusion and revelation, hunger and pleasure, cruelties and kindnesses, suffering and love, all combined with the day-to-day life in African villages to enrich this wondrous tale, then Barbara Kingsolver will have my everlasting gratitude.
This is a most rewarding book - a whooping good story told with tender majesty. The wisdom that Rachel, Adah, Leah, Ruth May, and Orleanna wrest from their lives is also mine ... and yours.
This was so poorly narrated I couldn't listen for more than just a little at a time, I kept trying to get 'into' it but never could and ended up not even finishing it; and usually I finish everything. Please head the advice of others to listen to the sample...
This was a good book however a different narrator or even multiple narrators would have made it easier to listen to. The narrator read like a computer, no personal touch. It took me a while to realize there were multiple people telling the story because of this. The story itself was good but a bit long. I am sure a different narrator would have made it a lot better!
When I read the description indicating that the book is set in the Congo, I was't at all sure it would be my cup of tea, but I was captivated in the first few minutes. Beautiful, intelligent writing. There just is nothing better. And the story is powerful! The characters, their story, the story of Africa - universal truths and wisdom galore.
The narrator did an excellent job of capturing the personalities of the characters as written by a brilliant author. I cannot recommend a book more highly than I recommend this one. If you have missed it before now as I had, don't wait any longer.
Listen on dog walks, commutes and around the house. Welcome virtually any genre but southern fiction holds a special place in my heart.
This is exactly what I want from an award-winning novel! I was hooked immediately by the author's authentic southern voice and the way she expertly molded and shaped the four Price girls and their mother. The Poisonwood Bible was my kind of Southern Gothic fiction, but instead of being set in the American South, it was set in the Belgian Congo. If you decide to take this journey into Africa, expect Southern Baptist evangelism gone wrong, ignorant racism, the devolution of European colonialism, ex-patriot survival to the extreme, and the unmistakable bonds between siblings. Some readers were turned off by the apparently heavy-handed political tone of the book, but I was intrigued by the history of the Congo and the struggles of its people before and after Belgian occupation (and the impact of all on whites living in the country). There are images from this book that I will likely never lose - like a green mamba snake camouflaged in a tree and the distinctive light blue color of the inside of its mouth.
For me, this was a powerful novel, evoking memories of my own childhood growing up with two sisters and a mother who was at once somewhat powerless in her own life, and yet strong. This book brought back memories of poverty, idealism, family migration, and history taking place around me---and me oblivious to it. I was only about 10 when Patrice Lumumba was elected, and I remember that, but at 10, alas, hadn't a clue as to what was happening. This book took me back and filled in some gaps for me. I loved it! When I began to listen, I thought, why did I buy a book about a Baptist minister in the 1950's, when my genre is medieval history? But I absolutely loved it and will read it again! Highly recommended!!