“Everything you’re sure is right can be wrong in another place. ”
― Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
This book will challenge you, inspire you, change you, make you look at the world in a completely new way. It’s easily one of my favorite books (admittedly, I do have a lot of favorite books), and I kind of want to buy a copy for everyone I know for Christmas. It sat on my bookshelf for months before I finally read it as part of my journey to read all of the books on Amazon’s 100 books to read in a lifetime.
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 everything 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. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.
Their harrowing story is beautifully told. The girls not only have to adapt to their dire situation in Africa, but they also have to navigate life with an abusive father. The book follows them through their years in Africa and beyond.
I found myself re-reading so many paragraphs and sentences just to grasp the beauty of Kingsolver’s words:
“We aimed for no more than to have dominion over every creature that moved upon the earth. And so it came to pass that we stepped down there on a place we believed unformed, where only darkness moved on the face of the waters. Now you laugh, day and night, while you gnaw on my bones. But what else could we have thought? Only that it began and ended with us. What do we know, even now? Ask the children. Look at what they grew up to be. We can only speak of the things we carried with us, and the things we took away.” ― Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
I was recently talking to my friend Christy about this book, and we both agree that just one of the many things that makes this novel so great is Kingsolver’s ability to write in so many different voices and how well she developed each character. The book is written from the perspective of four sisters, with a few chapters from the mother’s perspective. Kingsolver poured over magazines from the 1950s in order to grasp the language of young girls at the time, and she does a wonderful job of giving each woman a distinct voice. The way they view each other and the world makes this book so powerful to me.
I like to write down my favorite quotes as I read books, things that stand out to me. I wrote down so many quotes from this novel and if I were to list them all, I would probably just recite the entire book.
“Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know.” ― Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
Have you read The Poisonwood Bible? What did you think?