Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver

Title:  The Poisonwood Bible
Author:  Barbara Kingsolver
Pages:  576
Genre:  Fiction
Source:  Kindle
What you'll love:  Wonderful, distinct voices from each character, rich detail.
What will bug you:  Nathan Price.  Everything about him.

The year is 1959, and Nathan Price has accepted a position as a Baptist Missionary in the Belgian Congo.  He travels with his wife, Orleanna, and daughters, Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth Mae.  Nathan enters the Congo bearing fire and brimstone, and his wife and daughters enter with Betty Crocker cake mixes, and clothes completely inappropriate for their new environment.  

Not only are the Prices unprepared for their new home, but their new home is on the brink of war.  Strange animals and poisonous snakes are everyday threats, and the native inhabitants in their new village (accessible only by small airplane) are more than resistant to Nathan's extreme preachings.  

As in a pressure cooker, the situation surrounding the Prices and the others in the village build until about halfway through the novel when events lead them to the tipping point.  From here, the remainder of the novel gives an account of each family member spanning the next 30 years.  

I really enjoyed this book.  I violated one of my personal rules, and I actually finished reading it a couple of weeks ago, yet just had time to blog about it now.  Usually when that happens, I lose many details - yet this book has stayed clearly with me.  This is one of my intangible and completely subjective tests on what a good book is.  

The book is divided up into 7 sections (Genesis, The Revelation, The Judges, Bel and the Serpent, Exodus, Song of the Three Children, and The Eyes in the Trees).  Each section is divided up into first a testimony (I'm not sure that's even the right word, but I'm just going for it..) by Orleanna, then the four daughters (in no particular order, and often hearing from some daughters multiple times or not at all).  

Kingsolver did a fantastic job with voice in this book.  She is able to convey so much personality simply through word choice and phrasing.  

It's obvious early on that Rachel is a complete idiot - and that is so apparent through her speech.  She frequently misspells words, or uses them incorrectly, or uses the complete wrong word that sounds like the correct word (her sisters are practicing their French congregations).

I really loved Adah.  She is so witty and intelligent.  I loved how she called Nathan "Our Father" - it's subtle but speaks volumes.  She seems to have a very clear grasp on their family's situation.

PhotobucketMy hatred for Nathan Price is up there with my hatred for "The Big Nurse" (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) and Professor Umbridge (HP5).  Since I read this on my Kindle, I made notes for myself.  The first note I made was about Nathan.  It is - "This guy is an asshole."  He is the definition of self-righteous.  Every interaction with him was infuriating.  One of the most irritating parts was his lack of interest in figuring out the native customs and rituals of the people in the village.  I could go on for a long time.  What did you think of him?

Loved this book!  Bonus?  I knocked a book of a challenge list!  I signed up to read The Poisonwood Bible for the "Back to the Classics" challenge at "Sarah Reads Too Much".   

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