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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

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Performance
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  •  
    Vicky Sydney, Australia 06-12-12
    Vicky Sydney, Australia 06-12-12
    ratings
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    "Best Audio Book I've heard in a long time"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I've recommended this to people who would enjoy a well crafted story which is better heard than read. The telling of this tale is extraordinary and Dean Robertson's interpretation and command of character accents brings the book to life.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The hotel owning, sassy daughter and Robertson's interpretation is very real.


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

    I haven't listened to any others by this performer but will sek them out.


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

    I highly recommend this author and the reader without hesitation.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Perth, Australia 05-31-12
    Linda Perth, Australia 05-31-12 Member Since 2011
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    64
    3
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    Story
    "It just sort of ended"
    Would you listen to The Poisonwood Bible again? Why?

    No, I'm not one to reveiw the same material twice


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    It just happened. I didn't realise it was over, felt like there was stuff unanswered


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

    I loved the language an character interpretation


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna Darnell Huron Twp MI USA 05-25-12
    Donna Darnell Huron Twp MI USA 05-25-12 Member Since 2011

    Unabridged Book Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A different story, but I liked it"
    Would you listen to The Poisonwood Bible again? Why?

    Maybe some day; the story of a family whose lives were each deeply changed by their experience trying to help a foreign community that in the end may have taught the missionary family more than they were able to teach.


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

    How the experience in the Congo affected each member of the family.


    What aspect of Dean Robertson’s performance would you have changed?

    I didn't love the reader; who I think makes for breaks a book. I had a hard time in the beginning but did adjust. I thought much of it was read too quickly and without deep passion.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    How living in the Congo affected an American family.


    Any additional comments?

    A family from our church shares this unique experinece. The Grandparents started a mission in the Congo, which the son continued with his children who spent much of their your lives living in the Congo. I felt this book shed light on their experience. I enjoyed this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mandi 05-12-12
    Mandi 05-12-12 Member Since 2013
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    "Loved Reading It, but Even Better to Listen"

    The first time I read this book, it kept coming back to haunt me. When I got an audible account, one of the first books I got was The Poisonwood Bible. Hearing this piece spoken made a fantastic book even more enjoyable. This is one I come back to again and again to listen and relive the trials of these women. Kingsolver breathes life into a part of history I didn't know to exist. Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anna Lawrence Washington, DC 05-08-12
    Anna Lawrence Washington, DC 05-08-12 Member Since 2011
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    5
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    "Great look at a compelling history..."
    Any additional comments?

    Loved this story. I bought the hard copy of the book but found more time to listen to it rather than read it. Thought the story moved slowly for the first third, but as I became more invested in the characters and more engrossed in the history of the Congo, the pace quickened. The narrator was not quite as expressive as others I've heard, but perhaps this was a better way to convey the author's dry humor.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lenox 04-19-12
    Lenox 04-19-12
    ratings
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    37
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    "Loved this AudioBook!"
    Where does The Poisonwood Bible rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the best! It is well written and at times I hung on every word! I did have to get used to the reader since I felt it was spoken a bit fast. But overall I highly recommend this book to anyone who really wants to hear a good story about "... there's Christians and then there's "Christians"... Loved it!


    What did you like best about this story?

    The various viewpoints from each member of the family - except "The Father", which I would have loved to get a better sense of who he was through his own eyes. But I enjoyed Ada the most, and her thoughts captivated me. I think everyone can relate in some degree of being different or imperfect and noticing how others relate to your visual imperfections - as she said - even the cripple girl wants to live. But I must admit I did laugh out loud at Rachel's sincere selfishness.


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

    A bit fast, but it worked.


    If you could take any character from The Poisonwood Bible out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Ada. Amazing strength. She overcome a mother's decision to abandon her, only to later find out her mother's simple process of caregiving.


    Any additional comments?

    I loved how Barbara weaved a beautiful story of nature, marriage, motherhood, sibling rivalry, village relationships, racial tensions, poverty, religion and politics all in one wonderful story. I hope this books tells everyone how everything is intricately connected, no matter where we are in the world. Thanks, Barbara! Well done!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G Reinhardt 04-11-12
    G Reinhardt 04-11-12 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I loved loved loved this story"

    I purchased this book after a coworker recommended it, although I had little idea of what to expect. I was hooked from the start. I was raised in a very religious family and think I felt some kinship to the story tellers, although I certainly can't say that I experienced anything of the like. I had never read a great deal about the Congo either, so found it exciting to have my interest peeked about the country. I loved the way the author used the point of view from the very different and flawed characters in the book. It was quite enjoyable and I highly recommend this novel.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    littlesheree 03-26-12 Listener Since 2009
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    "The narrator ruins this book"

    I agree with the other reviews, the book overall is great. The narrator on the other hand is reading as fast as she can and makes it very hard to listen to or to keep track of what is going on. I would suggest listening to a sample first to see if you can tolerant the narrators style.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ginny 03-22-12
    Ginny 03-22-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Just Okay"
    What did you like best about The Poisonwood Bible? What did you like least?

    By switching narrators of the story, Ms. Kingsolver gives us a very complete view of her characters. We get to see, not only their best attributes, but also their flaws. We also get more insight as to why they made the decisions they did in an effort to cope with their situations. It made me like the characters more to understand, not only how others saw them, but how they saw themselves. This was most obvious to me with Rachel, who I couldn't connect with at all, but by the end of the book, I could really see how she was just doing what she could to carve out a life she could be happy with (even if I never could connect with her).

    The last third of the story seemed like multiple conclusions, one after another. I would think the story was over and another section would start. Then, when the story did end, it seemed abrupt. I appreciated, I think, knowing what happened to all of the characters later on in life but, it felt like touching more in depth than necessary on too many stories. It gave me too much information and too little at the same time, just leaving me lacking. I probably would have been happier with just the family reunion at the end and a brief explanation of what brought them to that point.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Barbara Kingsolver? Why or why not?

    Yes, I enjoyed her writing style, and I felt that she was very fair in what she presented. She did not try to tell the reader what opinion to have, but instead presented the evidence, if you will, and let the reader come to his/her own opinion.


    Did Dean Robertson do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    There were times that I had missed the heading that differentiated who was telling the story, and it wasn't until I could tell that the author's voice had changed that I realized the character had changed. It would have been much easier to follow if the narrator had used different voices for each character.


    Do you think The Poisonwood Bible needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No, but I think that the last third could have been worked into separate follow up books from each individual's perspective. I would have happily followed the individual stories of each of the characters.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    annette Santa Clarita, CA, United States 03-08-12
    annette Santa Clarita, CA, United States 03-08-12 Member Since 2010

    enteranet

    ratings
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    "Incredible"
    Where does The Poisonwood Bible rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the best explanations on the shaping of character and the exchange of cultures as a result of immigration.


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

    Like evolution, the changes that take place, or are resisted by the characters, move slowly. I thought of my own children as I read about the 4 daughters of the Baptist missionary bringing salvation to the Congo. Through malnutrition, parasitic disease and marching ants the family grows attached to Africa. Why?


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The wisdom and forbearance of those who have been shaped by the Congo for millennia, are the shapers of the convertors from Georgia, U.S.A. To watch the father who brings salvation to darkest Africa isolate himself from reality reminds me of how we wish to create the world into our likeness.


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

    Although I could most identify with the mother, the courage, patience and loyalty of Anatole most captured me. Each daughter, with her own story of what life is, filled the pieces of the puzzle.


    Any additional comments?

    I shed a tear or two when the story ended because, although it didn't end too soon, I will miss living with the characters' insights. Barbara Kingsolver created a masterpiece fit for any audience.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 211-220 of 300 results PREVIOUS121222330NEXT
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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.

    9 of 10 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.

    6 of 7 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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