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The Poisonwood Bible Audiobook

The Poisonwood Bible

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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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  •  
    Paulette Marinette, WI, United States 09-24-10
    Paulette Marinette, WI, United States 09-24-10 Member Since 2008
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    "Don't Bother: read the book"

    I foolishly ignored all the reviews that said the narrator was horrible. I thought I'd see for myself. BIG mistake. The book is excellent and I highly recommend reading it. I started with the audible recording but soon became utterly disgusted with the narrator who has absolutely no imagination and must be someone's wife or friend owed a favor. But the story is a good one so I got the book and totallly loved it. Don't waste your time with this recording!

    42 of 48 people found this review helpful
  •  
    brett Eureka, US, Canada 03-21-10
    brett Eureka, US, Canada 03-21-10
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    "wonderful book poor choice of narrator"

    I would profess that this book is a masterpiece written by a master writer. However, I was deeply disappointed with the narrator. How does this happen ; bad narrators getting these jobs? DO BETTER RESEARCH AND TEST RUNS BEFORE PLACING A CONTRACT BEFORE THESE MISERABLE NARRATORS! PLEASE! This narrator is cold and lacks artistry. She also speeds through lyrical sections of beautiful language that should be fully absorbed and savored. Eventually you get used to this cold and seemingly heartless and artless style, but it continues to intermittently frustrate and annoy. This narrator resembles, to my mind, some kind of stern and mean schoolmaster from the 19th century living to make her students miserable. Generally the narrators of audiobooks are thoughtfully and well chosen, but i am beginning to suspect that certain jobs are given as favors to friends or colleagues, for how else could lousy narrators get these jobs. I do not understand. The Audiobook business is, thankfully, an increasing market. I hope this fact will continue to encourage producers to make better and more conscientious choices when hiring narrators.
    Nonetheless, this book is such a fine work of literature, that I would recommend it in spite of this very unfavorable narrator.

    68 of 79 people found this review helpful
  •  
    FanB14 12-31-12
    FanB14 12-31-12

    Short, Simple, No Spoilers

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    "What's the Hype?"

    Southern Baptist minister from Georgia with wife and four blonde daughters in tow head to the Congo to save souls. Agree with the author's POV and enjoy her detailed, meticulous, unassuming writing style. However, this book felt monotonous, tedious, and banal. I grasp the concept and love the hidden sarcasm, just wish she could have wrapped it up sooner. Faced with 6 more hours to go, I had to stop. Maybe I missed something important at the end, but at this point, would rather move on to more interesting books.

    Not sure why this book always scores so high on lists. Maybe it's the fact someone tells the truth about how sad it is people feel the need to force their beliefs on "uncivilized" people who are perfectly content. Revelation indeed, but work more closely with your editor, Ms. Kingsolver. Also, the southern accent grated and reverberated in my ears.

    30 of 36 people found this review helpful
  •  
    6catz 03-25-15
    6catz 03-25-15 Member Since 2008

    I have to admit that I'm a total Audible junkie. MUST have book going at all times. I may be the subject of a family intervention someday.

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    "Magnificent"

    One of the best books I've ever read/listened to. One of those rare books that for me, illuminated a new vision of the world I live in and my place in it. Would give more stars if I could. Powerful, deeply moving, inspiring, and a classic on par with the likes of "To Kill a Mockingbird". I know I'll sit with this one for a time and will absolutely have to read it again when I'm ready.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Houston, TX, United States 04-27-14
    David Houston, TX, United States 04-27-14 Member Since 2008

    Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.

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    "Masterfully written; superbly narrated"

    This is another book for which excellent listener reviews are already available but which I would like to call to the attention of anyone who may have missed them so far. (While I am on the subject, allow me to apologize to Westergren Viveca. The single negative response to her very interesting review came when my finger slipped. I wish Amazon would make it possible to correct such mistakes.)

    One caveat. This is not a book which will slip easily into one ear while the other is atuned to traffic or a house full of distractions or the underdrone exigencies of a busy day. It is full of riches which will be missed by the casual listener. Perhaps this explains the problems some people have had with the narration. Dean Robertson brilliantly captures the rhythm, inflection and expressive idiosyncracies Kingsolver has written into these Georgia bred women and differentiates them in wonderful verisimilitude. Their words come alive in the voice of this gifted actor, and since the speaker is clearly named at the beginning of each chapter, no pyrotechnics of pitch or timbre are required to identify them. The result is a very truthful and telling characterization in every instance. Nor would a slower reading have served the text. These women do not speak slowly, savoring the poetry in their mouths. That bit of truth is one of the delights of this book. Just as with any really excellent piece of writing, there may be times when you want to go back. and dig a little deeper into the meaning and beauty. It is worth the time and effort.

    That was a pretty long caveat, wasn't it! Sorry. But do consider treating yourself to Barbara Kingsolver's ravishing book sometime when you can really listen with both ears.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniela NYC 10-22-12
    Daniela NYC 10-22-12 Member Since 2010
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    "The perfect "Listen and Read" experience!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Poisonwood Bible to be better than the print version?

    I hesitated listening to the Poisonwood Bible as an audibook because I enjoy Ms Kingsolver's lyrical prose, and I didn't want to miss that experience. But as it is for most of us these days, I have less time to read than I do to listen. So when Audible introduced the new "listen and read" feature I decided to try it out on this book.

    Wow. This new feature is going to change my life! Not only does it let us experience the best of both worlds - immersing ourselves in the author's writing style, re-reading particularly important or complicated passages, etc, but it also lets us experience the performance of the story, bringing the characters to life via the narration in a way they don't come to life on the page. Plus, we can get through books so much faster! I would listen on my long commute and then kick back in the evening with my Kindle, synced to the exact position where I'd left off in the book, and spend time enjoying the book. It's a truly seamless back and forth experience.

    In this way I got to hear the correct pronunciation of African names and terms I am sure I would have butchered if left to my own devices. But if the audio narration got too complicated (lots of character names, etc.) I could go back and reference the book and get reoriented.

    I disagree with those reviewers who did not like Ms. Robertson's narration. I thought it was spot-on - perfectly capturing the personality of each girl through her unique accent and speaking pattern. Her narration made these characters come to life for me.

    I don't know whether I found the audio or the written version of the book better. It was the combination of the two formats that elevated this book to a new level.


    Any additional comments?

    As for the book itself, I thought it was powerful, informative, compelling, and heartbreaking. I'd say it's Ms. Kingsolver's best book - managing to give a historical account of the Congo while also capturing the heart and soul of the people. The narrative device of telling this story from the perspective of the young girls who must adapt, grow and survive in this foreign and hostile environment is genius.

    Ms. Kingsolver is often criticized for having an agenda in her presentation of facts and of being preachy in her opinions. She does not avoid those characteristics in this book, but the overall story is so well told that it's easy to forgive her.

    If you're looking for a book that will sweep you up and take you to places you've never dreamed of and will teach you things along the way - this is it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 09-27-12
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 09-27-12 Member Since 2007

    The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history

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    "A masterful depiction of the effects of imperialis"

    Four women, four voices, four experiences of four decades in the history of Africa. From the first paragraph describing the Congolese jungle, this book slithered out and wrapped itself around me and I didn’t want it to ever let me go. The language is exquisite, the characters riveting and the plot dramatic in the best sense of the word. That Kingsolver also manages to pack in a complex lesson on the history of imperialism on top of all that is simply mind-boggling.

    The setting is Africa, but events like those in this book have happened many times all over the world. Unfortunately, citizens of imperialist nations, including the U.S., are privileged to “sail through from cradle to grave with a conscience clean as snow,” as Kingsolver says in the first chapter. Having lived in Chile, I understand far too well what U.S. foreign policy is capable of doing. So I found the story of what happened to the Congo under first Belgian direct rule and then U.S. indirect rule depressingly familiar. Yet it is a story that needs to be heard over and over until the citizens of the “first world” finally hold our own governments accountable for the misery we have caused in the “third world.”

    I found this to be a truly masterful depiction of imperialism and its effects on entire nations, as told through the stories of four American women. Dare yourself to read this book with an open mind and you may begin to see that we are all co-conspirators in the fate of our fellow human beings.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hamish United States 09-01-12
    Hamish United States 09-01-12
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    "Most enjoyable"

    I enjoyed this book so much I didn't want it to finish. The story was amazingly in depth and very well researched.
    Telling the story from the different female characters gave you an opportunity to become part of the book by relating to those characters as they grew and changed. You got to understand each character, and also how others saw them. The narator did a great job of differentiating between all the characters and this made it easy to immerse yourself into those individuals.

    I loved it and contemplating listening again and bound the get more out of it second time around

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 08-18-12
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 08-18-12 Member Since 2008

    My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.

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    "Great story of being stationed overseas"

    Any American who was stationed overseas in the 50s, 60s, or 70s will find a lot to relate to here. Kingsolver's situation may have been more "rustic" than most, but the culture shock, the unpreparedness, the evolution of the connection with the locals, the unexpected effects on the children, the discovery that the locals are far more capable of running their own lives than the Americans imagined, the forces that keep the family together, and the (often stronger) forces that rip families apart, are all on display here. It doesn't matter if you were military or State Department or Peace Corps or missionaries. Kingsolver writes a fairly honest, balanced account of one family's experience through all of this. For those who weren't stationed overseas, this would be a good way to get an idea of what it was like. All of this is apart from the actual specific story Kingsolver is trying to tell. All I'll say about that is that it is a really well done example of what happens when idealism hits reality.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Gunsel Singer Island, FL 02-07-10
    Kim Gunsel Singer Island, FL 02-07-10 Member Since 2017
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    "Outstanding"

    The Poisonwood Bible was my first audiobook download from Audible. What an excellent choice! The narrator truly brings the book to life. The book is an adventure story, as well as a history lesson, & beautifully written. I have recommended this book/audiobook to no less than 50 people since completing it. This book is one of my all time favorites.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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  • Caireen
    Cupar, United Kingdom
    9/13/10
    Overall
    "Great characters and story"

    I loved this book. I was worried it would be depressing or long winded, but thankfully it wasnt. The story is interesting and the characters are great, with great moments of humour. The narrator was particularly good, really bringing the characters to life

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Sally
    Newport, United Kingdom
    8/6/13
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    "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.

    2 of 3 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.

    2 of 3 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!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Suswati
    5/26/17
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    "Detailed look into colonialism in Congo"

    Barbara Kingsolver's epic novel about missionaries and colonialism in the Congo through the eyes of the women in a Christian American family is decadent and detailed. While many will complain about the hard hitting truths of complicity of western nations in destroying the country, it is extremely important and brings to light many historically overlooked issues.

    Keeping in mind that this is fictional, the various narratives​ are well researched to the point where at times it seems plausible and factual. The four main voices are completely different from one another and sometimes the anti-communist voice seemed like a mockery of that type of rhetoric. Leah's voice seemed more realistic than the others. Overall, a well written piece of literary fiction.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Adam L.
    5/18/17
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    "Superb book "

    Mesmerising blend of compassion, emotion and madness. The wonder and chaos of the now DRC has rarely been so beautifully evoked. Excellent reading of a very memorable book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • PL
    3/17/17
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    "Very well read"

    I loved this version of the The Poisonwood Bible. The narrator was brilliant and did a fantastic job reading the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • jacqui
    Great Britain
    3/15/17
    Overall
    "Wonderful."

    Beautiful prose and a fascinating journey. Narration was excellent and engaging. I m sad to ha e reached the end and will return..

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Barbara Murray
    Ireland
    3/10/17
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    "Be patient. it's worth it"

    Good book. It took me a while to get into it but I'm glad I persevered. I would recommend it

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ms. H. L. Murphy
    london
    3/5/17
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    "An engrossing, beautifully layered story"
    Where does The Poisonwood Bible rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It's a solid safe bet, I toyed with purchasing it for ages but I'm so glad I did. I felt the whole time as if I was in the hands of the experts; well- performed and written by someone with a deep understanding of people and emotional intelligence.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The differing voices of each character-led chapter. Particularly those from the POV of the youngest daughter Ruth. The author captures a child's voice very well.


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

    First time. Was impressed.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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