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The Poisonwood Bible | [Barbara Kingsolver]

The Poisonwood Bible

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 all 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.
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Publisher's Summary

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 all 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.

This tale of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction, over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa, is set against history's most dramatic political parables.

The Poisonwood Bible dances between the darkly comic human failings and inspiring poetic justices of our times. In a compelling exploration of religion, conscience, imperialist arrogance, and the many paths to redemption, Barbara Kingsolver has brought forth her most ambitious work ever.

©2004 Barbara Kingsolver; (P)2004 Brilliance Audio

What the Critics Say

"Haunting..A novel of character, a narrative shaped by keen-eyed women." (New York Times Book Review)
"The book's sheer enjoyability is given depth by Kingsolver's insight and compassion for Congo, including its people, and their language and sayings." (Boston Globe)
"Beautifully written....Kingsolver's tale of domestic tragedy is more than just a well-told yarn.. Played out against the bloody backdrop of political struggles in Congo that continue to this day, it is also particularly timely." (People)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (4123 )
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  •  
    barc2003 Glendale, AZ, United States 09-27-12
    barc2003 Glendale, AZ, United States 09-27-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    260
    67
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    Performance
    Story
    "Slow Start"

    This book took me a while to get into but about half way through I realized I was really invested in the story. I also felt there was a number of parallels between the story and my own life. That was kind of interesting.

    The story revolves around a family whose father is a Baptist minister in the 30's, he moves them all to the Congo for a year of missionary service. Nothing goes as planned. The story is told in the alternating voice of the 4 daughters and wife of the minister each of whom sees almost every situation differently.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura G. Mcinerney LaPorte, IN 09-24-12
    Laura G. Mcinerney LaPorte, IN 09-24-12 Member Since 2015

    Laura

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great story"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. It is informative and enjoyable


    What other book might you compare The Poisonwood Bible to and why?

    I cannot compare it to any other book I have read. I like the different perspectives offered by the characters


    Have you listened to any of Dean Robertson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Have not listened to other performances but enjoyed this one


    If you could rename The Poisonwood Bible, what would you call it?

    Man proposes, god disposes


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sheri Yucca Valley, California, United States 09-20-12
    Sheri Yucca Valley, California, United States 09-20-12 Member Since 2014
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    REVIEWS
    6
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Hardest book I've ever listened to."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    I would recommend the book, but NOT the audio book. It took me months to finally finish it because the narration killed the joy that I normally have for audio books and I could only bear to listen for short periods of time once a week or so.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Dean Robertson’s performances?

    ABSOLUTELY NOT. Never ever again. Can't stress that enough!


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Yes.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Casey United States 09-17-12
    Casey United States 09-17-12 Member Since 2011
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    1
    1
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    Story
    "Love this book!"

    This book was wonderfully written from the perspective of five different characters (a mother and her four daughters) moving with their husband/father from Georgia to the Congo in 1959. As the story evolves, the characters evolve as well and they are changed as people irrevocably.
    It is a dynamic, solemn, funny, graceful and deep story about a very human experience.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bette Gustine, CA, United States 09-10-12
    Bette Gustine, CA, United States 09-10-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    71
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    65
    42
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    3
    1
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    "I loved it!"

    I wasn't sure I would enjoy this book because it was based around Christian missionaries and I'm not terribly religious. This was a great story with strong, entertaining characters. It was difficullt to stop listening when I needed to do other things (talk on the phone). I'm listening to it for a second time, just in case I missed something, because the reader speaks very quickly.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teresa Mount Juliet, TN, United States 09-10-12
    Teresa Mount Juliet, TN, United States 09-10-12 Listener Since 2010
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    37
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Deeply moving with a twist to break your heart"
    Would you listen to The Poisonwood Bible again? Why?

    Would definitely listen again. The story captures you. Throws you into a world you can't even imagine. Makes you part of the family.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The twist.


    What does Dean Robertson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Personality. Tones and inflections I wouldn't have read with.


    Who was the most memorable character of The Poisonwood Bible and why?

    The youngest daughter


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    teresa Yorktown, VA, United States 09-08-12
    teresa Yorktown, VA, United States 09-08-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Easy Listening"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Poisonwood Bible to be better than the print version?

    Yes. I'm an auditory learner.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Poisonwood Bible?

    What happened with Ruth May.


    Have you listened to any of Dean Robertson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I think mine was narrated by a woman, but she did a fantastic job.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It was required reading, but I still found the book incredibly enjoyable.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ric 09-03-12
    Ric 09-03-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    44
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    "A Must Read For All"
    Any additional comments?

    Barbara Kingsolver weaved a wonderful story with something that intrigues everyone. If you can suffer the narrator long enough, the writing will pull you in to a point where the narrator no longer matters. The 40 year journey and growth of the Price ladies in the Congo is amazing, beautiful and tragic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gae New York, NY, United States 08-30-12
    Gae New York, NY, United States 08-30-12 Member Since 2009
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    29
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Quietly stunning"

    Written in the interspersed voices of three daughters and a mother transplanted to the Congo, this story sews its soul into you slowly. By the later chapters, your find your seams have become one with those of these women. Kingsolver gradually lays bare the American complicity in self-serving African politics, rending our hearts along with those of the Price women and the Congo. Yet, the novel leaves the door of hope open. Like those of Pearl Buck, these characters and this Central African country, will haunt a section of your consciousness for a long time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lindsey Lexington, SC, United States 08-28-12
    Lindsey Lexington, SC, United States 08-28-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    33
    12
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    0
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    "I really tried"
    Would you try another book from Barbara Kingsolver and/or Dean Robertson?

    maybe


    What was most disappointing about Barbara Kingsolver’s story?

    it was just tough to keep up with


    Any additional comments?

    I really did try to read this book but it was slow and hard to get into. The speaker did a great job with the southern accents, however it couldn't overshadow the unexcitingness of the book

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Linda
    ManchesterUnited Kingdom
    1/25/09
    Overall
    "Compelling"

    This is a compelling, multi-layered novel. It tells the story of Nathan Price, a bigoted Baptist minister who takes his wife and four daughters away from the comfort of their American home to the diseased and famine ridden Congo. This move eventually leads to tragedy and to the break-up of the family. Although sad in parts it's not a heavy listen - it's hard to put down as it's written with great humour, particularly the passages relating to the eldest daughter Rachel with all her Malapropisms.
    My only criticism is that the author spent far too long expounding her political views in the last quarter of the book. Those views of the ignorance of imperialism speak for themselves through the story. Aside from that, well worth the read, thought provoking and interesting from the historical perspective.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • metalwork
    9/22/10
    Overall
    "excellent read"

    This is an excellent book in many ways and I would recommend it to anyone not just for its story but for the relevance of its politics.It is humane, insightful and finely written, and therefore deserves to be much better narrated. It is read too fast, with little expression and with no attempt to vocally differentiate between the characters, in particular the mother and her 4 daughters, the main characters, all sound like the same person. Sadly, many of the subtleties of the writing, especially in the more moving parts, are spoiled and occasionally lost altogether in the narrator's disregard for punctuation and apparent hurry to get it all over and done with! Good audio book narrators don't just read aloud, they act as well. This narrator just reads it aloud.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    11/6/10
    Overall
    "A good story over-burdened with detail"

    The author has created a wealth of strong characters: the awful, overbearing, self-righteous Baptist missionary Nathan Price; his long-suffering wife and four very different daughters that he drags to the Congo in the late 1950s to satisfy his desire to bring Jesus to the natives. The Congolese he encounters are resourceful and pragmatic and he greatly under-estimates them. It's an epic story of battling against the odds set against the tragic political upheavals caused by US meddling that ruined the country. There is much of interest in the book, but I felt there was too much descriptive detail and attempts to draw moral parallels that slowed down the narrative. The author knows a lot about the Congo having lived there and has obviously done much research, but a good story has become over-burdened with her desire to include too much of this information. There are many characters with unfamiliar-sounding names that made it difficult to keep track of who was whom: a difficulty increased by the colourless and sometimes overly hurried narration in a monotonous voice with no attempt to differentiate among the characters. The book is structured such that we get the story told from the perspective of the mother and four daughters in turn but I kept losing track of who was 'speaking' as the narrator sounded the same all the time. A pity as some audio books are brought to life by a skilled narrator who can change voice as each character speaks.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Kerry
    Irthlingborough, Northants, United Kingdom
    3/16/11
    Overall
    "Read this book to get the most out of it!"

    I did not get as much out of this book as I would have done by reading it. The story, although a little slow at the start, really takes off and is well worth persevering with. However I did not like the reader and thought she made no effort to read each character differently. This book is based upon the way the women characters see life in a Congolese village at the time of the uprising in 1961. The youngest is 5. The reader did not attempt to make the listener understand which character was 'speaking'. i would have got more out of reading it 'in the voice' of each character. Therefore I cannot recommend the audible version - though i do recommend the book.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Tara
    Bedford, United Kingdom
    9/25/10
    Overall
    "Terrible Narration"

    I was really looking forward to listening to this as a number of people had recommended and I had heard some great things on the radio 4 book club. However I was really disappointed, the narrator didn't bring the characters alive at all, she was very one dimensional and her voice was actually pretty annoying. The story was interesting but I'm afraid I totally switched off due to the lack of commitment from the narrator. Just goes to show how important the narrator's job is when creating an audiobook, great books often fall flat if you get the wrong person reading them.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Sarah
    liskeard, cornwall, United Kingdom
    10/12/10
    Overall
    "So beautiful...."

    I listened to this book after hearing Tim Butchers account of his trip down the Congo (Blood River).

    It is one of my favourite audio books so far.

    The characters are so beautifully drawn, they almost seem real. In fact, at times I found it hard to believe that it was a work of fiction and not based on real events (although the political backdrop is, i believe, based on what really happened and is still happening).

    It is, in places, heart wrenchingly sad and there isn't really a totally happy ending, but still I felt satisfied at the end.

    Some of the descriptions of people, places and emotions are almost poetic.

    It's a lovely, feast of a book...

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • S
    HARROGATE, United Kingdom
    1/15/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Intriguing story"
    Any additional comments?

    This is a great story told cleverly through different eyes. I really enjoyed it, but the narrator didn't making it clear whose story she was telling because one chapter heading followed as if it were the next sentence without pausing. On numerous occasions I had to re-wind to check whose story I was now hearing. Thankfully it was such a good tale that it transcended the poor narration.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Sally
    Newport, United Kingdom
    8/6/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fascinating exploration of family and morality"
    Would you listen to The Poisonwood Bible again? Why?

    I rarely listen to stories more than once but I have now bought this book in print and think it is something I will dip back into in the future.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    All the women brought something to the story and because it was told from various points of view in the form of journal entries it was possible to see the same situation differently. Each of the five main female characters added depth and richness to the story.


    What about Dean Robertson’s performance did you like?

    Robertson's performance was superb, bringing life to the characters as well as humour and warmth. She managed to bring out all their different personalities without resorting to odd accents.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The ending was very moving. The realisation that the Congo had forever changed the lives of these women, for good or ill, and the closing of old wounds as they moved on with their lives. Magical.


    Any additional comments?

    This was such an interesting story, sometimes reming me of Little Women, but much bigger and richer. It really made me think - about religion, about the relationship between men and women, about the things done in Africa in the name of democracy. It's taught me things about the Congo and those war torn parts of central Africa that I never knew before, and has made me question some previously held ideas.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • steven
    4/26/13
    Overall
    "Entertaining, informative and profound"

    It was probably Chinua Achebe’s recent death that prompted me to read this book – many years after everyone else had read it and raved about it. It is rave-worthy. It is a wonderfully evocative story narrated by a mother and her four daughters reluctantly dragged into the pre-revolutionary Congo by a fire-and-brimstone, Southern Baptist father. The mission family experience life in an obscure African village at the most tumultuous time on the continent as the wave of independence sweeps through (or past) them.



    My first encounter with Kingsolver was The Lacuna and I stopped less than halfway through because the story was tedious and the author was also the narrator (audiobook) and she was just dreadful. So it took me a little while to forgive her and try another title.



    This time I was very pleasantly surprised. I expected a very sombre exploration of cultures and religion, and although these exist throughout the book, my first reaction was to laugh out loud. The voices of the narrators bring out their idiosyncrasies, their (sometimes) hilarious perspectives on their lives. The story is strong and simple. They remind me of the Paul White Jungle Doctor stories which my father used to read to us. The tone is identical and the stories are simple, honest and natural.



    But in addition to the quaint retelling of these village events, the deeper issues of competing religious views and the tragic consequences of fanaticism make this a most memorable novel. Very highly recommended.



    The narrator (this time) is exceptionally good and her French is quite acceptable. I won't comment on her Afrikaans pronunciation but that is understandable.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • mandy esseen
    South Wales, UK
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Poisonwood Bible"

    I read this book years ago, and enjoyed it, but having just listened to it via audible, I have picked up on so many more nuances and clever tricks of language that I missed in the dense text of hard copy. Kingsolver is the mistress of words that can mean more than one thing, indeed she creates a character who makes meanings of words that are read backwards! Even the title is a play on the dual meaning of the word the preacher uses for Jesus - in the tribal language of the congolese people he is trying to convert, it means poisonwood - a deadly plant that will kill you. His ignorance, however, is foiled by the understanding of his wife and four daughters, each of whom have their own narrative voice and story. An absolutely compelling story that is at once a celebration of freedom and independence and a tragic exposition of social prejudice and expectation. Not a light read, but certainly one not to be missed!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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