The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

by Barbara Kingsolver

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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.

The novel is set against one of the most dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo's fight for independence from Belgium, the murder of its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy. Against this backdrop, Orleanna Price reconstructs the story of her evangelist husband's part in the Western assault on Africa, a tale indelibly darkened by her own losses and unanswerable questions about her own culpability. Also narrating the story, by turns, are her four daughters—the self-centered, teenaged Rachel; shrewd adolescent twins Leah and Adah; and Ruth May, a prescient five-year-old. These sharply observant girls, who arrive in the Congo with racial preconceptions forged in 1950s Georgia, will be marked in surprisingly different ways by their father's intractable mission, and by Africa itself. Ultimately each must strike her own separate path to salvation. Their passionately intertwined stories become a compelling exploration of moral risk and personal responsibility.

Dancing between the dark comedy of human failings and the breathtaking possibilities of human hope, The Poisonwood Bible possesses all that has distinguished Barbara Kingsolver's previous work, and extends this beloved writer's vision to an entirely new level. Taking its place alongside the classic works of postcolonial literature, this ambitious novel establishes Kingsolver as one of the most thoughtful and daring of modern writers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061804816
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 9,617
Lexile: 960L (what's this?)
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of nine bestselling works of fiction, including the novels, Flight Behavior, The Lacuna, The Poisonwood Bible, Animal Dreams, and The Bean Trees, as well as books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction. Her work of narrative nonfiction is the enormously influential bestseller Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Kingsolver’s work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned literary awards and a devoted readership at home and abroad. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts, as well as the prestigious Dayton Literary Peace Prize for her body of work. She lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

Date of Birth:

April 8, 1955

Place of Birth:

Annapolis, Maryland


B.A., DePauw University, 1977; M.S., University of Arizona, 1981

Table of Contents

TOC not available

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The Poisonwood Bible 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 864 reviews.
Hygd More than 1 year ago
As a former missionary kid (Mish-Kid) this book brought back tons of memories. I have seen real-life characters that would have fit so comfortably within the pages of this book. The book, I believe, would be a fantastic read for many. I definitely would not say for everyone. Not too many people will read it on a nostalgic level as I did, and for some others who grew up similarly to me, it would bring back emotions and memories they would best forget. It brought back memories to me of the missionary to Borneo who spoke at my school when I was a 13 year old kid. He finished speaking and then invited all who would promise to someday go to Borneo as missionaries to stand, making public affirmation of this promise. No one stood. We were 13. Who knew what tomorrow would bring? The speaker, however, did not free us from the bonds of this assembly. He kept repeating the "invitation". After countless entreaties, we all stood up at once. We'd had enough and were ready to get back to doing the things we wanted. The speaker was thrilled. Did he think that his message had reached us? As far as I know, no one has gone on to missionary work in Borneo and I am now in my late 50's. There was another fellow who sought to bring down the walls of Jericho. Jericho being a local bar. He and his church members marched around their Jericho, playing hymns with a trumpet and singing every night for some time...enough to bring down the walls of any modern day Jericho, if not at least to bring in the local authorities. I totally enjoyed Poisonwood. I knew the people within its pages. Great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Before I read this book for a literature class, I had read some of Barbara Kingsolver's short stories. I really liked them, but I wasn't sure how a full-length book would be. And I have to say, the Poisonwood Bible is a fantastic novel. Kingsolver's writing flows and and is full of imagery and detail. It is set in the Congo, and follows the family of Nathan Price, a fanatical Baptist preacher. The story is told through the perspective of the four Price daughters and occasionally their mother. Kingsolver's ability to change her voice to match the personalities of her characters is incredible. My personal favorite Price is Adah, the damaged genius who plays with words and cynicism, but even the characters I disliked had interesting points to make. Definitely worth reading! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Poisonwood Bible is a well written novel with an outstanding story line. Barbara Kingsolver does a remarkable job of placing the reader in the middle of the jungle along with her characters and she includes enough history of the Congo to make the reader believe that this is almost a true story...even though it isn't! This book is definitely a great read for anyone looking for a great story!
HoosierJoe More than 1 year ago
The first two thirds of this book are fairly interesting and have good character development although it lacks in much of a plot. But it is a good chronicle of an ill advised missionary adventure of a possessed man and the family he drags along with him. The last third of the book is pretensous, boring, preachy, anti American, and anti Christian. In other words, all the same old blah, blah, blah that gets published a hundred times a year by all of these book-a-year authors. I started skimming just to get through the tedium.
Lolomurph More than 1 year ago
When traveling there is one question that festers in the mind; what do I bring? I'm not sure if Ruth May, Adah, Leah, or Rachel could've ever known what to pack when their father, Nathan Price, dragged them and their mother to the Belgian Congo. They attempted to carry everything they believed they would need in order to live there for a year; which was a different idea in each family member's perspective. As the story progresses, you will discover that everything they brought couldn't have ever prepared them for the tragic and life changing experiences they encountered. The story of their lives in Africa as missionaries is told from the eyes of the Price girls and their mother. With each girl having their own unique experiences they will take you on a remarkable and painful adventure. Meet their limbless neighbor, savor along with them the precious bottle of Clorox, learn the long and arduous art of cooking in the jungles of Africa, and watch as each girl finds their way through this mysterious culture. Barbara Kingsolver does a truly amazing job giving the world a glimpse into the life in Africa and the struggles of missionary families in the novel, The Poisonwood Bible. I enjoyed reading the story through the daughter's narrations because they seemed realistic in the sense that many teenage girls can relate. Rachel's character sticks out to me in that she is a normal makeup-wearing and boy crazed teenage girl like myself. My heart went out to missionary families after reading this novel; especially the mothers. The thought of trying to raise a family in such a culturally different place as Africa is hard to fathom and for that reason I praise Orleanna's character. As I read this book I got a different outlook on my faith as a whole and I obtained a new appreciation for those who give themselves and their families away to the mission field.
AvenueQ More than 1 year ago
If it were not for my English class, I never would have thought to read this book. However, I am glad that Ms. O'Brien did. On the surface this may seem like a chick book, but don't let the Oprah Club sticker fool you. This book is more about survival and faith while completely out of your element. Told from five points of view, this book follows a family of white missionaries into the Belgian Congo in the late 1950's and early 1960's. This book isn't preachy and stands out as a must-read. I have no doubt that this book will invoke profound thoughts in the reader. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
Angela Meadows More than 1 year ago
I loved the first 2/3 of the book and couldn't put it down. As they all got older though it was too depressing and never seemed to end. I found myself trying to hurry through it to get it over with.
taciesmith More than 1 year ago
I am shocked that i liked this book as much a I did (I abhore organized religion) but it was a great read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel was an insightful look into the results and colonizing influences of Africa. Through the world view of Postmodernism, each of these women discovers an equally valid existence as they seek forgiveness and reconciliation with the world around them. The stereotype of missionaries is easily debunked after a little research into 20th century missions and reading of the whole Bible instead of excerpts. There is more hope offered in these along with the hope found in finding love and contentment in authentic community. This is an interesting read for those who would like a glimpse into postmodernism and African culture. Care should be taken as in any read to not believe everything one reads but seek truth at the source.
shinnyleigh More than 1 year ago
Loved how each chapter was written from the perspective of a different character allowing you to get to know them and how they viewed their current situations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book starts out a little slow with no continuity to the storyline. Starts to get better after about 150 pages. It's a book that makes think and question your beliefs about life, justice, and religion compared to other cultures. In essence, your environment has a lot to do with how you look at the world and other people and cultures. What is accepted as natural and obvious to you may seem ridiculous when looked at from a different point of view. I also learned a little bit of the history of the Conga and America's role in establishing a puppet leader to do it's bidding. It's important to look at the facts honestly instead of making excuses for the misdeeds of America's leaders. Only by holding our leaders accountable, can we make America be the bright shining light that it once was.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Poisonwood Bible was an incredible book. There are some very mature subjects in this story, but nothing a high school student couldn’t handle. I enjoyed the book, because of its realistic plot, and obvious reference to events in history. I would recommend it to kids in high school, and older. Knowing the historical references makes the book so much more enjoyable, because you understand what’s happening, and know where the author is coming from. I would recommend this to a high school student, because it gives you a new perspective on life, and things we take for granted. As a women especially, I found this story inspiring, and empowering. I would recommend this story to women the most, because of its importance to women. I think we can all take something from it though. This story reminds us all that no matter where we come from we all are equal. No one person has control or dominance over another. It also reminds us that no matter how helpless we might feel, it’s never too late to change, and we can always stick up for what we believe in.   
NCKATHYB More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful story with many introspective themes. By hearing the voices of each of the female members of the family, you hear several sides of different issues. I was impressed with the historical background and the sympathetic view of the native Africans. The study into the language was also interesting. It makes you think twice about some of our own government's policies. It also made me appreciate what we have, living in the US and how much we take for granted.
larrydarrell More than 1 year ago
A great insight into the goings-on in the Congo of 1960s. Barbara Kingsolver introduces you to characters that will live in your memory forever. She has remarkable depth in her understanding of people, and different cultures, and it makes her a great storyteller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book because the story is told through more than one perspective. I was hooked in the first few chapters. She is a very descriptive writer who takes you to the places she so eloquently desribes.
Frauhousewife More than 1 year ago
Excellent mix of fiction and history.
nomes0222 More than 1 year ago
I found it interesting the way that Barbara Kingsolver chose to portray the theme of conflicting cultures in this book. She chose a evangelical American priest, by the name of Nathan Price and his family to venture down into the Congo to try and convert the Congolese people to Christianity. The Nathan Price's arrogance and lack of understanding prevents him from doing this in appropriate fashion. He expects the Congolese to relish the teachings that he brings to them, and fails to understand that the native people had their own beliefs and were not going to change them readily. Kingsolver organized the book in a way that each of the women take turns narrating the story. Through this she protrays how the different characters were shaped by their experiences in the jungle. There is the vain, narrow-minded Rachel who says that "You can't just sashay into the jungle aiming to change it all over to the Christian style, whithout expecting the jungle to change you right back." I liked the book because of Barbara Kingsolver's ability to incorporate precise detail and in doing so give the reader a greater understanding of the situation
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a great read! It was intelligent, funny and informative. I read the book in one day and the characters have stayed with me ever since. I have recommended this book to countless people and have got a lot of satisfaction from their positive reviews. It's great to share a treasure!
Anonymous 10 months ago
The extreme situation the author creates in this fictional account allows her to proclaim her philosophies of life with vigor, particularly anti-Christianity and anti-Americanism. In the foreword, she makes effort to point out that her parents (who went to the Congo in the same time period) have NOTHING in common with the main subjects of the work, essentially preparing the reader for the assault upon the southern baptist missionary and his 4 children from Georgia who are the main characters.
neilchristie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Story of the family of an evangenical preacher who move to the Belgian Congo in the 1950s. A bit like The Mosquito Coast in the way it shows how an alien environment can change a family that comes to it from the outside. Epic, poetic and very enjoyable.
DebbieMcCauley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in the Belgian Congo, 1959, where evangelical Baptist preacher Nathan Price has uprooted his family from America to a primative world of poisonous snakes, unrelenting poverty and hardship, hostile villagers and political upheaval. The story if told through Nathan Price¿s wife Orleanna, and three daughters in alternating chapters. If found this interesting and well researched but would have been interested in reading chapters by Nathan Price chronicalling his descent into madness.
melibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
+ Well-written, interesting historical details, told from 5 distict perspectives, enough suspense to carry me through the entire story, made me want to learn more about Africa.- None, really.
chichyJakMysz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh my, I'd give this book 10 stars if I could!
WintersRose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Someone described this book to me as "painful, painful, painful," I would have to agree, especially if you happen to actually know any missionaries. I wonder if Kingsolver knows any missionaries, or if she just based Nathan Price on the usual literary/televsion/movie ministery stereotype. Price is the major flaw of the book because he is just a worn-out stereotype with no complexity. His one departure from the stereotype is that he constantly quotes books of the Bible that are not recognized by Jews or Protestants as Scripture. In fact they're only recogized by the Catholic Church, which Price disdains. It seems to me that Kingsolver took the easy road here, perhaps finding it too difficult to portray a good Christian missionary. The book moves makes slow, and again painful, progress until the village where the Prices live is attacked by army ants. After that it becomes a page-turner. Also keeping the reader's attention is the depiction of Congolese politics and history. Kingsolver masterfully portrays each of her five female narrators, giving each a unique voice and perspective of events experienced by the Price family. There are no Congolese narrators. The ending of the book is more gentle than the whole rest of the story, which seems to communicate that only the dead can experience or give true forgivenss.
justablondemoment on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book for the most part. The author put alot of time into researching and it was interesting and informative. At times though, I felt a bit bored these times were however, small enough to keep me going. Glad I didn't let those times make me put the book down as by the end I was satisfied by the experience of reading it.