Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver (audio)

You may start to think I am a tried true follower of Oprah, since this is the second book I have recently read that has been on her list, and the third, if you count the stroke lady. I assure you that I am not, however I have found you really don't go wrong with her recommendations. This one is no exception. It was actually recommnded to me by a fellow reader friend, and I had no idea what it was about, and was pleasantly surprised.

The book really falls into two major sections. In the first section, a fire-and-brimstone, hypocritical, chauvanist minister (no I didn't like him!) drags his wife and four girls to the Congo as missionaries. They rush headlong into the bush with hand mirrors and Betty Crocker cake mixes, and are completely unprepared for what is waiting for them...starvation, deadly snakes, lions, flesh-eating ants, you name it. The Congo made its mark on each member of this missionary family that followed them for the rest of their lives. The second section of the book starts with a heart-breaking family tragedy and goes through the next 25 years after the Congo. The wife and children all become disenchanted with the misguided father and leave. The eldest daughter Rachael (a narcissist of the highest order) goes on to marry her way through rich husbands and run a resort in South Africa. The first of the two twins, Leah, marries a native Congolese and continues to live and raise their children in Africa, despite repeated imprisonment of her husband. The other twin, Adah, moves back to the US and becomes a doctor. The mother also moves back to the US and never remarries.

The book is a fascinating tale of a family living through a momentous time in African history - it truly is a history lesson. But it is more about the impact of events on people's lives, and how each deals with tragedy and difficulties in their own way. Kingsolver's prose is unmatched. It is like a poem, each set of words like taking a bite of a rich sweet. My only criticism is that the author wears her political views so openly on her sleeve, but is still very easy to get caught up in the novel and ignore (if you wish) her stong opinions.

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