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#277 ~ The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Published by: HarperCollins

Published on: July 2005 (reprint)

Page Count: 576

Genre: Literature

My Reading Format: audiobook purchased through Audible.com

Narrator: Dean Robertson

Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, eBook, audiobook


tlc-logo-resizedToday it is my great pleasure to be Barbara Kingsolver’s host on her TLC Book Tour.  This tour is to celebrate The Lancuna.  TLC Book Tours has also included hosts reading from her backlisted.  Today I’ll be reviewing The Poisonwood Bible.

I have a lot of fun working as a tour host for TLC Book Tours.  They always have great books and authors on tour.  Check out their website for more information on this tour and the others that they are hosting.


Synopsis from the Publisher

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 all 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.

This tale of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction, over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa, is set against history’s most dramatic political parables.

The Poisonwood Bible dances between the darkly comic human failings and inspiring poetic justices of our times. In a compelling exploration of religion, conscience, imperialist arrogance, and the many paths to redemption, Barbara Kingsolver has brought forth her most ambitious work ever.

My Review

I cannot tell you how much I loved this novel. Having each of the women in the Price family narrate this novel was fantastic because each woman had their own views about what was going on.   This was due to their  age, their relationship to Nathan Price, and their world view when they arrived at the Congo.  What made this even more amazing was that I could have told you within just a few sentences who was narrating without being told otherwise because each of the five women had such a distinctive voice. The narrator was also incredible, bringing each of these characters alive as individuals.  I especially loved the way Dean Robertson, who sounded like a woman to me the entire time,  took Rachel’s common phrases and made them just so perfect.

Of all the characters, Adah Price, the twin sister with hemiplegia was my favorite.  She lived so internally because of her condition and she used her brain to play with language.  That use of language wasn’t just for her own amusement.  It added a dimension to their lives and to the Congo that brought me there so easily.

I hated Nathan Price.  I feel somewhat judgmental saying that as he had no voice in the novel.  Still, what he did – or more often didn’t do – to and for his family while they were in the Congo so that he could answer to his calling was appalling.  He may have bullied his family, but he was a weak man who hid behind the Bible.

The only issue I had with The Poisonwood Bible was that it got somewhat preachy about Africa and the Western world.  Although I believe those were the thoughts and feelings of the narrators, the actual story and their lives said that much more loudly than the narrator’s opinions.

I cannot recommend this novel more highly.  If you haven’t read it yet, you really should.  Not only is the story rich, but the writing is excellent.  You will not be disappointed.

26 Comments

  • At 2010.09.07 08:15, rhapsodyinbooks said:

    I have only read one Kingsolver and I’m not sure why only one because I really liked it! Your review makes this one sound very intriguing. I love that you could identify each narrator without being told!

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    • At 2010.09.07 08:27, Coffee and a Book Chick said:

      I’m still kicking myself for not having read this yet — thanks for reminding me to get off my butt and pick this one up!

      • At 2010.09.07 08:33, Meghan said:

        I adored The Poisonwood Bible. I don’t even remember the preachiness, only the good bits! I don’t know why I haven’t read more by her yet, just remembering how much I sincerely enjoyed this book back when I read it.

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        • At 2010.09.07 08:40, Stephanie said:

          I admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book. I read it about three years ago and it just didn’t live up to my expectations. However, it is one of the few books that I think I would actually really enjoy if I reread it. Maybe it was just the wrong time for me to read it.

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          • At 2010.09.07 09:49, Fyrefly said:

            I love this book, not only because it’s great in and of itself, but because it introduced me to Kingsolver’s work in general, and she quickly became one of my favorite authors.

            I never thought about it before, but I wonder how it would work for me in audio – particularly Adah’s chapters (she’s my favorite character too), since I spent a lot of time in the text version going back and forth with her palindromes and her wordplay.

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            • At 2010.09.07 10:19, Nely said:

              I absolutely loved this book too. Great review!

              • At 2010.09.07 10:22, Melissa said:

                Adah was my favorite character as well. I’d never read anyone quite like her.

                • At 2010.09.07 11:03, Teacher/Learner said:

                  Thanks for the great review! I have a copy on my nightstand but haven’t touched it yet, somewhat due to the mixed reception, but more likely because I have so much to read :oD Your opinion is valued in the book blogging community, so I’ll dive into it as soon as I can! Welcome back, by the way, and please accept my belated sympathies for your loss.

                  • At 2010.09.07 11:31, Kate said:

                    I loved this book also! I read it nearly 5 years ago, and I think it might be time for a re-read. I would be interested to hear what you have to say about any of Kingsolver’s other books, as this is the only one I’ve read so far.

                    • At 2010.09.07 11:47, Sandy said:

                      I listened to this on audio, and I was blown away. The prose, the intrigue, the drama! I know some people hated it, but I for one didn’t want it to end.

                      • At 2010.09.07 12:46, Shelley said:

                        The setting of this book couldn’t be further from mine in Texas, but I was happy to see the information about the “reprint,” since with the upheaval in the publishing industry, that is becoming more rare. Even excellent books are struggling to stay in print.

                        • At 2010.09.07 13:27, Crissy said:

                          One of my favorite books, ever. It’s on my list to re-read at some point in the near future.

                          • At 2010.09.07 14:29, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

                            I’m a huge Barbara Kingsolver fan and this is one of her finest works in my opinion. I’m glad to see you loved it.

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                            • At 2010.09.07 15:59, Lisa (Book Blab) said:

                              I read this years ago and I agree with Bermudaonion that this is definately one of her greatest. I also LOVED The Bean Trees. A GREAT read as well.

                              Great post!

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                              • At 2010.09.07 20:12, Gwen said:

                                I have picked up this books so many times and was never able to get into it. For you, I will try again soon:)

                                • At 2010.09.08 06:09, Beth Nolan Conners said:

                                  I’ve read all of Kingsolver’s books – am a huge fan – but this one was my favorite!! Glad you liked it, too, as some of my friends didn’t. -Beth 🙂

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                                  • At 2010.09.08 21:34, Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said:

                                    This is one of my all time favorite books, the one I recommend that all my friends read. I’m so happy to see that you really enjoyed it. Adah is fascinating, isn’t she?! I loved how Kingsolver was able to create such clear voices for each of the characters.

                                    Thanks for being a part of this tour – I’m so enjoying seeing reviews of this book!

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                                    • At 2010.09.09 03:33, Marg said:

                                      I was so surprised when I enjoyed this as much as I did when I read it a while ago. It’s a good book club read too – lots to talk about!

                                      Hasn’t given me any incentive to read any more Kingsolver though!

                                      • At 2010.09.11 11:38, Colleen (Books in the City) said:

                                        One of my all-time favorite books! I may listen to it instead of a re-read – thanks for the inspiration!

                                        • At 2010.09.12 15:03, Emily said:

                                          When I went to Ecuador five years ago, I packed two books: Maria Tatar’s Classic Fairy Tales and this. It’s one of my favorite books ever. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

                                          • At 2010.09.13 15:11, Anna said:

                                            Glad you enjoyed it. It’s one of my all-time faves.

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                                            • At 2010.09.24 22:13, Lisa said:

                                              I loved this one, too. I completely agree with the skill Kingsolver showed using the multiple narrators and that the book got too preachy. If the second half of the book had read like the first half, the book would have been perfect.

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                                                • At 2010.09.30 19:22, Laurel Corona said:

                                                  I think The Poisonwood Bible is one of the finest novels ever written. Not finest recently, finest by a woman, finest American, or any qualifier. Finest, period.

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                                                    • At 2015.07.14 16:28, Haley Stubbs said:

                                                      I also loved the book!
                                                      FYI Dean Robertson (narrator) is not to be confused with Robertson Dean who is also a narrator and a man. Dean Robertson is a woman.

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