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Showing 1-10 of 1,132 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 2,849 reviews
on June 13, 2015
This is a beautifully written book with inspired prose and deep insights. It looks at Africa and Africans with open eyes and a sensitivity to their heritage and culture. It also examines the role of missionaries in Africa, some of whom are good and some terrible. It is not a book for the deeply religious who cannot stand to see their own beliefs challenged or to acknowledge that there are other belief systems out there that are held just as dearly by their followers.

I would like to site some of my favorite passages.

I could never work out whether we were to view religion as a life-insurance policy or a life sentence.

Mama says their skin bears scars different from ours because their skin is a map of all the sorrows in their lives.

I pictured hands like those digging diamonds out of the Congo dirt and go to thinking, Gee, does Marilyn Monroe even know where they come from? Just picturing her in thr stain gown and a COngolese diamond digger int he same universe gave me the weebie jeebies. So I didn't think about it anymore.

God doesn't need to punish us. He just grants us a long enough life to punish ourselves.

Illusions mistaken for truth are the pavement under our feet.

There are a lot of other passages and verbal images that I loved but I can't copy the whole book here. However, there is one last thing I want to say and this is a complaint.

Here is the quote:
A parasite of humans that extinguished us altogether, you see, would quickly be laid to rest in human graves, So the race between predator and prey remains exquisitely neck and neck.

As always, it is impossible for people to understand evolution. This passage was supposed to have been said by a researcher at the CDC. It fails to understand that evolution is not forward looking. It is highly likely that this scenario has played out over the millennium for species that no longer exist. In fact, the Tasmanian devil is currently facing extinction from a viral form of cancer that fits this description. This kind of thing is more likely in small populations where genetic diversity is limited. Probably the human race has little to fear on this account.
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on February 19, 2017
This book started slow for me, but it soon began to capture my attention. The characters are well developed and very complex. The story is engrossing...the struggles of a white mission family in the Belgian Congo in the 1950's. It is told alternately by the wife and daughters of an pious but abusive husband and father. It follows the characters over several years and describes the impact that time in the Congo had on their lives as some return to the US and others remain in Africa through the rebellion and beyond.
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on December 9, 2016
This is a real page turner of a book. Kingsolver really takes you into the jungle with all its sight and smells. You feel empathy with all the characters because she offers you all points of view. As historical fiction melded with real historical figures, you come to understand why present day Africa is such a basketcase and it's not because of the ordinary people of Africa but rather the colonisers, who had their own agendas, sometimes well meaning but mostly rapacious.
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on June 13, 2017
3 stars because I didn't like the story at all. What a tragedy that this family had to endure their awful experience in Africa because the father wasn't able to divorce himself from his own ill devised work path. At the end of the story, I was exceedingly sad.
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on February 21, 2017
This is the most fascinating book that I have read in many months. At times I felt as though I was living in the jungle too. The contrasts between the years of living there and the lives thereafter were in perfect harmony with the characters.
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on April 1, 2010
this book has all of the things i love in a book - characters with purpose, a fantastic setting and stunning language. it had its flaws, but ultimately, The Poisonwood Bible was an excellent read and i'm looking forward to more from Kingsolver.

Nathan Price is a fierce Baptist minister who brings his wife and four daughters to the small village of Kilanga in the Congo during the late 1950's. his intentions to bring salvation are mighty, but he seems to be trying to over-fulfill his obligations by force-feeding his beliefs to the natives, nearly as much as his family seems to be trying to force their southern Georgia lives to fit into a Congolese way of life.

"So determined he is to win or force or drag them over to the Way of the Cross."

as the political situation in the country becomes dangerous, the family is urged to leave, but Nathan stubbornly refuses and, despite being cut off from their monthly stipend which leaves them penniless, he persists. the family dynamic becomes obviously brittle and for the second half of the book we follow the various lives of each member for the next several decades.

the story is told from the perspective of the mother, Orleanna, and each of the daughters, the eldest Rachel, the twins Leah and Adah, and the youngest Ruth May. each is distinctly different in their voice and this was probably the most accomplished component of the novel. of the daughters, Leah was by far the most entertaining to me. she was quick witted and intelligent, and as a child, fiercely and honorably loyal to her father, despite his misgivings. but, i loved the sections that were devoted to Orleanna! she was the most competent at displaying the emotions and choices in her life and this invoked an unbelievable sadness in me. her narratives read in a way that made me so sympathetic to her situation.

"I had washed up there on the riptide of my husband's confidence and the undertow of my children's needs. That's my excuse, yet none of them really needed me all that much."

the Congo was depicted as a harsh and magestic place, much as i imagine that it is, even today. although i haven't read any other fiction set in Africa, this has definitely sparked an interest in me to read more. the landscape, as depicted by Kingsolver, was cruel and heartless - malaria killed nearly half of the children in the village - but it was also lush and thriving with the passion of the people and their cultures. really, if this book had been set anywhere else, i don't know that it would have been as powerful as it was.

in the end, though, it was the language that made me absolutely love this book. there were so many amazing lines that just made me stop, take a deep breath and read them again. i went highlighter happy (thankfully it was on my kindle) and had hundreds of quotes by the time i was finished. if you are a fan of beautiful language, you will most likely love this book. although the story was a little slow at times, and although the first half was stronger than the second, in my opinion, i would recommend to anyone who loves a patient, yet intense, read.
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on June 11, 2011
I had noticed this book before but cast it aside thinking it was another book about the good work missionaries do in the underdeveloped world. How wrong I was.The Poisonwood Bible contains a strong message about all the negatives that can happen with missionary activity.
The book tells the story of Nathan Price and his family and what happened when they went to spread the word in the Congo. Things went wrong from the start when arrogant Pastor Nathan ( wrong person for the job and his church tried to tell him so ) arrived with a basket of seeds from plants native to North America. The Congolese apparently are so primitive they didn't know how to grow their own food. The plants failed in the Congo and Nathan began a difficult learning experience.
The brilliance of the book comes from how it operates on so many levels. The story is told through the eyes of his wife and four daughters and each sees a different reality. It is set against a background of massive injustice inflicted on the Congo by the west ( Belgium and USA in the case). The culpability of President Eisenhower I found particularly disturbing. Unfortunately similar stories can be told of elsewhere with other western countries equally guilty. I would strongly recommend Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones about New Guinea. An amazing book I enjoyed it immensely and read it very quickly despite its not inconsiderable length.
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on August 31, 2016
Considering I have never read a Kingsolver book in my life, this book really signed me up to read another one of her works. Upon reading this, I felt for every single one of the characters (besides Rachel and Nathan). Though, this book really takes a lot to get through the first few chapters. The story is a missionary family long to the Congo in order to spread the word of God in 1959. what's fascinating about the book is that the perspectives are so vastly different which is really shown through the writing style. And also, the characters realization of the world they are in, such as, the world issues occurring in the rural area and the girls’ opinions changing about the God they had been following for part of their lives. In the book, it excludes the father’s perspective and only takes the mother and her 4 children into account. Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May (in order of age). In each of them, there is something to love or hate, which makes it harder to keep reading in fear that something terrible to happen to them (since that's how books usually go.) and for them, Africa had a impact of them whether they liked it or not.
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on January 9, 2017
I have read this book more than once and recommended it to friends. In the beginning it is a little confusing, but hang in there. This is a book where the characters became real people to me and I found myself thinking about them after I had finished the book. This book weaves together family relationships, religion, culture and history.
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on July 18, 2011
This book is reminiscent of "Mosquito Coast", but only told from the female perspective. I found the first half of the book tough going; the characterization of the father was aggravating to me. He was just too rigid, narrow minded and oblivious to his surroundings - how someone would not bend just a little to accommodate such extreme conditions is a point of ridiculousness.

The book switches between the perspectives of the Mother and her four daughters, which works well as their characters are developed, and you learn about their little quirks and differing perspectives. It also has great impact as their paths diverge in the second half of the story. However in the beginning, when you do not know the characters, it was difficult to differentiate who was who, and the switches were a little confusing.

What I really appreciated in this book however was the insight into Congo life and how different our Western culture really is. It also uncovers the arrogance and criminality of the 'white invaders' in the region.
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