“The Poisonwood Bible” was written by Barbara Kingsley. It is a fictional account of a family’s missionary experience in The Congo, Africa, beginning in 1960. The family consists of a minister father, mother, and 4 daughters. Father has ghosts from his past, which cause him to be too zealous in his expectations of the Congolese people. Mother intuitively understands that to feed the spirit, one must first feed the stomach.
The eldest daughter, Rachel, and the twins, Leah and Adah, are young teenagers when they arrive in The Congo. Rachel longs for the conveniences of home, Leah works diligently to earn her father’s approval, and Adah struggles against a brilliant mind inside a disabled body. The youngest daughter, 5 year old Ruth May, is the quickest to make African friends.
The story is told through the eyes of the four daughters, each with a different and unique perspective of their shared experience. The Poisonwood Bible offers a story of love, a story of inner growth, and a story of meeting and conquering challenges. The way those challenges affect the various family members’ entire lives is ironic and amazing, as well as a bit sad. Or is it sad? Would the daughters have been better off without their Congo experience? Would they have been as strong, as open to new ideas, or would they have been happier living the lives of the typical American woman, complete with modern conveniences and narrow minds?
Through a reading of The Poisonwood Bible, one also is exposed to the politics of The Congo. 1960 just happens to be the year Congo received its independence from Belgium. What follows is a very long history of political corruption and international involvement. Interestingly enough, none of that seems to touch the villagers themselves.
“The Poisonwood Bible” led me to people, places, lifestyles, climates and animal life I would likely never have encountered without this read. Reading can certainly be a journey!