The Poisonwood Bible
Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.
Welcome to Flik of the Week! This week’s Flik is the novel The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, published in 1998. It has won a bunch of awards, and is on the Top 30 Books to Read Before You Die list, made up by British librarians. I don’t know about that – but it is definetly a book worth reading.
The novel is about the Price family, who move from Georgia to a tiny village in Congo in 1959, because the father, Nathan, wants them to be missionaries. The story is told by the five women who travel with him; his wife Orleanna, and daughters Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth May. Orleanna narrates the introductory chapter in almost all of the novel’s section, and then the rest of the chapters alternate between having the daughters as narrator – with the outspoken Leah slightly more represented than the others. I loved this narrative approach, because the girls are very different from each other, and of different age, and how they all adapt to life in Congo is very different from each other.
Since we see the life in Congo through different, and constantly growing, characters, our view changes. First, life in the jungle and the Congolese villagers seem to be childlike savages, but, as the Price girls mature, the villagers become human beings like themselves – members of a complex and rich culture. Nathan Price’s lack of responsiveness to this culture, and his constant attempts to turn the Congolese into Americans wears out his family’s welcome in the village, but yet he refuses to leave. As the political turmoils in Congo starts in the 1960’s it becomes increasingly dangerous for his family to be there – but he does not care. It is only after a series of misfortunes, suffering, and near starvation, that the women decide to escape without him. The daughters and their mother all take very different paths in their future, which is described up until the 1990’s – but in all their lives it is obvious how Congo has, and continues to influence them.
In addition to an amazing story, Kingsolver teaches us about modern Congolese history, and manages to show us a bit about why Congo still struggles today. Run and read!