• Rachel Penate

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver


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 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." (Adapted from Goodreads)


REVIEW: I bought a copy of this book YEARS ago when I was in high school and my eye for "bestsellers" had just begun. Yet, it sat unread on my shelf for years, just simply collecting dust. Despite giving away my copy, and really having no desire to pick it up again, I'm super grateful it reappeared in my life at this particular moment. Reading this story as a young mom was timed so well, but maaaaan this one was a doozy.

... not necessarily a doozy to digest the content itself, but a major doozy for the way in which my heart broke for literally every single character.

Chock-full of some intense and incredibly important themes, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE is (in my opinion) a masterpiece. From the themes of overcoming disability to feminism, to coming-of-age drama to religious extremism, to cultural insensitivity to the politics of the Congo and the lingering effects of imperialism, Kingsolver's epic story has just about everything. And, you better believe I also felt just about EVERYTHING.

Perhaps most provokingly, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE cracks open the theme of cultural insensitivity by detailing what happens when we project our beliefs on another culture without actually listening to their stories. Nathan Price's character is one of assumed peace turned destructive power almost acting as a warning light to those who hold similar beliefs about forcing ideals. This story confirmed a lot of the same feelings I have about religious extremism and what happens when we don't empower people (especially our children) to think for themselves. Price was right in laying the foundation of belief, but he neglected the space to let that faith grow and mature through question and, if necessary, disbelief. And, that was ultimately his demise. Forcing faith is never a good thing, and Kingsolver nailed this theme on the head.

Honestly, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE is a book I will be thinking about and ruminating on for years. Absolutely recommend if you are a fan of books with difficult themes that also read like a modern classic.

SENSITIVITY WARNINGS: physical abuse, death of a child, religious extremism, psychological abuse, extreme cultural insensitivity.

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