Saturday, August 27, 2016

"The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver

Rating: 4/5 stars

Just finished this book last night, and I'm afraid my review won't do it justice. That being said, I'll do my best in a limited amount of words.

At the beginning of the story, I wasn't really a fan of the multiple perspectives between the sisters and mother. I wasn't invested in the characters enough to appreciate their unique perspectives or feel connected to them. That changed, however, and I appreciated the varying viewpoints: Ruth May as the innocent and eager child, Rachel as the selfish and materialistic eldest, Leah as the adventurer and explorer who noticed the people, and Adah as the intellectual and thinker. I enjoyed seeing Africa through each one's eyes.

I loved the insight into African and its people. After reading the book, I think of Africa in a whole new light as a place of beauty and horror and untamable wildness. Africa was much more lovely and terrifying than I could have imagined. I enjoyed reading about the Congolese people and how they lived and what mattered to them compared to what mattered to the white men who came to change Africa (either through misguided missionary ventures or down-right vile dealing in the government and mining business).

Coming from a similar church background as the Price family, I was appalled by the soul-saving attempts of Father Price. How could someone be so ignorant, so stubborn? And how often have white men come and tried to change a country in the name of God and progress? It was so very frustrating to me, but the character of Brother Fowels offered some hope. Though people like him were few and far between, he did care about the people and didn't come to change them, but to learn from them and forge relationships.

The members of the Price family each learned (or failed to learn) profound truths from living in Africa, such as:

-Morality isn't always black and white.
-Handicaps and physical impairments are often a side effect of living, and not something to be ashamed of.
-Supposedly "uncivilized" people are often the most civil and generous.
-Christianity is misrepresented by so many "Christians."
-Some people never learn from their life experiences, but stubbornly hold to their lost causes and therefore, can't be saved.
-You can't teach someone what you haven't learned yourself.

Through the Price family, Kingsolver weaves a story of hope, loss, despair, growth, joy, and redemption. Africa forever leaves a mark on each of the family members:

"But we've all ended up giving up body and soul to Africa, one way or another...Each of us got our heart buried in six feet of African what do you do now? You go to find your own way to dig out a heart and shake it off and hold it up to the light again."

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