Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The Poisonwood Bible

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. I'd thought The Poisonwood Bible was more about, say, the bible in Africa than about Africa dealing with those who love the bible. I was wrong - Kingsolver really did some research to be able to speak with such strong voices.

Missionary family goes to jungle in the 60s, reverend father is a little crazy and racist and a lot misogynistic and deluded. Wife is long-suffering and does her best, and the four girls are each a different take on the West's perception of Africa. From the privileged disdain to the scholarly study, and from the wholehearted acceptance to childlike wonder and immature misunderstanding. The story is actually quite interesting, and you find yourself relating to some of these voices as you go. The African characters become more developed as a few of the Price family allow themselves to get to know the natives. They do end up richer, but I wish they'd gotten even more so by the end. You learn a bit of the history of Belgian Congo/Zaire/Democratic Republic of the Congo. The view that the book tries to impart is not only how difficult it is to get to know the continent from the West, but how much daily life of regular people could care less about King Leopold, Lumumba, Mobutu as long as they are left alone and not oppressed.

I most identified with Adah, and in addition to her fun word games and brilliant observations, I thought this was interesting:

"When Albert Schweitzer walked into the jungle, bless his hear, he carried antibacterials and a potent, altogether new conviction that no one should die young. He meant to save every child, thinking Africa would then learn how to have fewer children. But when families have spent a million years making nine in the hope of saving one, they cannot stop making nine. Culture is a slingshot moved by the force of its past. When the strap lets go, what flies forward will not be family planning, it will be the small, hard head of a child. ... For every life saved by vaccination or food relief, one is lost to starvation and war. Poor Africa. No other continent has endured such an unspeakably bizarre combination of foreign thievery and foreign goodwill."

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