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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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  •  
    Dan El Paso, TX, United States 12-05-10
    Dan El Paso, TX, United States 12-05-10 Member Since 2009
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    "I'll Give You 4Goats for the Termite"

    Very well writen novel. I would have given it 5 if the story ended after Exodus. The second half of part 2 was like a very long epilog.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric 12-04-10
    Eric 12-04-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not my bag"

    Book is interesting and written from a neat perspective, but I just wasn't all that into it. Just not the style of writing that I am into. Book shows everyone's perspective to different situations, which was very interesting and added a lot of humor to the text, but you really need to pay attention to which character is talking otherwise you'll be lost and have to backtrack... of course backtracking is way easier in a print than on the ipod, so I wouldn't discourage anyone from this novel, but just wasn't my style.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jodi Meriden, CT, United States 11-30-10
    Jodi Meriden, CT, United States 11-30-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Excellent book -- poor narration"

    This is such a great book, but I wish that I would have read it rather than listened to it. The narrator sounds rushed; sentences blur into one another without pause and it's easy to get distracted by the narration and lose focus on the story. There's very little emotion. It's almost like the narrator is reading the book for the first time. I may have been biased, though, because I listened to this one shortly after The Help, which has to be my absolute favorite audiobook as of yet. Oh, well, it's still a great book and worth a listen if you don't mind the narrator.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer LA 08-23-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Beautifully written, just a great story!"

    I love this book and listening to it as an audio book makes it all the more powerful, Dean Robertson makes sense of the poetic nature of this book and gives life to the characters ... perhaps some people have not enjoyed Dean Robertson, but I can't really make sense of their objections? On the strength of this audio book, I also bought the book for my kindle, so I can savor the beauty of Ms. Kingsolver's wonderful writing, but I have to say, I prefer to listen to Dean Robertson.

    I spent a whole weekend listening to this story on my iPod - I couldn't break myself from the journey of the book - transported to the Congo, I lay about, or walked slowing through the Hollywood Hills in a sort of trance, I listened and listened ... so beautiful, so soulful ... the characters and their story moved me greatly, I highly recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharmon Bedford, TX, United States 08-09-10
    Sharmon Bedford, TX, United States 08-09-10 Member Since 2014
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    "Sharmon"

    Disappointing. The narrator was very rushed--sentences were read with barely enough time to absorb what Kingsolver was trying to communicate. Too, I think I would have enjoyed it more if the narrator had taken on each character's persona--as if she were playing the parts. Her voice was very monotonous. Because the narrative alternates between the mother and her four daughters, it was often difficult to figure out who was whom, when I had to stop and pick up again. Sometimes by process of elimination it would dawn on me who was talking, otherwise I would have to rewind for some clue. For me, this took away from Kingsolver's descriptive writing. Rachel had a distinctive southern drawl but that was about it. I'd like to listen again with a better narration. For now I really don't know if I enjoyed the story or not!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paula CA, CA, USA 07-16-10
    Paula CA, CA, USA 07-16-10 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wow!"

    I have read two other Kingsolver novels (Pigs in Heaven and Prodigal Summer) and enjoyed them very much. This book was no exception. I listened to it during every waking hour straight through until I finished it.
    Gripping historical novel about the wife and four daughters of a "Hell and Brimstone" Baptist missionary who takes his family to the Belgian Congo in 1959. Apparently Kingsolver lived in the Congo with her missionary physician father in the early 1960s so there is likely a good bit of authenticity to the descriptions of daily life in the village where the story is set. The book is told from the first person alternately from the view points of the mother and 4 daughters. Good epic tale, lots of socio-political insights. I do not agree with some who did not like the narrator. I feel she made it easier to enjoy the book by giving a unique "voice" to each character's view point.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Denise Charlestown, IN, USA 07-14-10
    Denise Charlestown, IN, USA 07-14-10
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    3
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    "Best Summer Read Ever"

    This was a Oprah book club selection over 10 years ago and I still read it ever summer. You will find yourself feeling the heat of the steamy jungle in this amazing journey of a family on a mission trip to the deep jungle of the Congo in the early 60's. Beautifully told thru the eyes of the mother and each of her daughters, you find yourself feeling part of the family quickly. The question of "how far does a wife and mother go to keep her family together"? My opinion has changed over the years as I find myself older and hopefully wiser for my own family. You will not want to stop listening or for the book to end. Don't forget to share this one with friends and family.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Al MunichGermany 07-01-10
    Al MunichGermany 07-01-10

    I most enjoy listening to contemporary fiction with well-developed characters.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Frustratingly fast narration"

    I read this book and loved it, so I thought I'd refresh my memory by downloading the audiobook. I couldn't make it through the second chapter. The narration is frustratingly fast, leaving no time to digest in between sentences. I kept wanting the narrator to just pause for a half second between sentences, because the writing was sometimes very rich, complex and descriptive, and I had no time to form a picture in my mind of what was described.
    Do yourself a big favor and read the text version of this book... it is really worth it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary San Anselmo, CA, USA 03-25-10
    Mary San Anselmo, CA, USA 03-25-10
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    "Wonderful Literature"

    Kingsolver writes some of the most beautiful prose being created in these times.From descriptions of the primeval African forests to mundane details of home life, she weaves in the political background with wit and compassion, showing how it affects the everyday lives of ordinary people. In the Congo, she let's us see through the eyes of 5 uniquely perceptive women/girls dragged along at the mercy of a horribly insensitive husband intent only on bringing Christ to the dark, ignorant heathens.What first seemed like a total tragedy became a rich, vibrant experience profoundly affecting each ones life, but later included tragedies that were the natural outcome of actions completely beyond their control.
    I was irritated by the narrators voice at first, because the rich language seemed distorted coming with a voice and accent like hers. Then, as the story progressed and she got into character with each voice, representing 5 southern, rural females of different ages with a fairly simple-minded upbringing, I started to appreciate the many nuances she brought to the reading.As the mother and daughters struggled in their own ways against the fathers' control and pathetic, single passion which only grew stronger and more fanatical with each stress and failure,their minds and characters developed so they were able to break free of his harsh, neglectful domination to save themselves before he went totally insane.I enjoyed the book from beginning to end, and though it was long, was disappointed when it finished.I can hardly wait to read the next one,"Lacuna"!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    tess biggera waters, Australia 12-03-09
    tess biggera waters, Australia 12-03-09 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Totally engaging."

    When this book started I wanted the narrator to slow down. I felt as if it was all being read too fast for me to create the beautiful visuals the writer was creating but once my brain adjusted for the speed I found myself in the congo, totally engrossed. The writers way of writing the continuing story chapter by chapter from each family members experience was unique and worked exceptionally well. I loved this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 231-240 of 277 results PREVIOUS123242528NEXT
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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.

    13 of 13 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.

    6 of 6 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.

    8 of 9 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
  • 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
  • Nottamun
    Strasbourg, France
    12/14/12
    Overall
    "Lyrical and compelling"

    I enjoyed it. If the narration was a little flat, I wasn't put off by it and the fact that each subsection is preceded by a naming of the character involved helps in following the plot. The character of the four daughters is drawn out carefully, as is their development over time. The Congo and its people are far more than a mere backdrop; they shape the growth of Orleanna and her four girls, whereas the refusal of the father to attempt any sort of integration compromises not only his religious mission but also his family bonds. He fades slowly out of the picture, leaving Orleanna to face all the consequences.



    I wasn't convinced by all the characters. I couldn't get into the head of Rachel, the eldest girl, and Nathan, the father, remains a cipher despite his backstory. Adah, on the other hand, is fascinating and her plays with words reflect Kingsolver at her lyrical best.



    At times the book feels a little like a treatise on long-suffering motherhood and the second half seems nowhere near as strongly written but, overall, I thought it had real impact.



    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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