I read Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible several years ago and decided a re-visit was in order. I was impressed when I approached it from a reader’s perspective, but from a writer’s perspective, the sheer magnitude of Kingsolver’s craft left me–for lack of a better term–fangirling my way through the novel.
Kingsolver lays bare five souls, six if you count the Congo itself, as the baggage of a renegade Baptist missionary determined to save souls at any cost. That price, which happens to be the surname of the transplanted family, becomes steeper and steeper as the novel progresses.
The book shifts points of view amongst Orleanna Price and her four daughters as they chronicle their African experience and the indelible mark it leaves on each. The reader sees each character with her triumphs and failures, both real and perceived. They each struggle with religion, culture, and the inflexibility of the self-righteous and overbearing patriarch of the family.
On my first read so many years ago, I recall being a bit frustrated that Kingsolver didn’t put readers into the head of “Our Father”. This time, however, with a lot more experience and presumably a more discerning eye for narrative technique, I see the wisdom in her decision. He is close-minded, egotistical, and emotionally unapproachable. Kingsolver reveals he has his own demons, but deals no absolution for the stiff-backed preacher just as his favorite punishment for his daughters–The Verse–offers neither forgiveness nor comfort. Brilliant.
This is a novel that will grip you with its poignancy and mystify you with its eddying depths of family dynamics, faith, politics, and oppression. It is the kind of story that you’ll find hard to swallow, until you realize it’s the kind of story that swallows you.
Rocky Rates It: 5/5 Stars This one is awesome!