The Poisonwood Bible

My reading isn’t exactly the newest bestseller list from New York, but through accident or intent I do eventually get to a new book in my own time. Most recently, I overcame my aversion to a certain bookclub and read Barbara Kingsolver’s, The Poisonwood Bible.

My first impression was one of pleasant surprise; I’ve been flinching from fiction lately but this novel avoided all the pitfalls I’ve come associate with much of that modern genre.

The Poisonwood Bible focuses on the lives of five women (four daughters and their mother) journeying to Africa with their missionary father during the early 1960s. Before I unintentionally imply that this is religious novel, let me state that although there are important spiritual overtures it is in NO way a religious work or endorsement (you should know me better than that). Instead it is a sumptuous dive into the complicated interplay of society & politics (African and Amero-European), spirituality, ecology and human nature.

By viewing the events and world through the shifting viewpoints of these five women (ranging from a young child to their mother), each being unique and well developed characters one is allowed the opportunity to consider just how few aspects of their life and setting (and indeed our own complicated worlds) can be summed up in a single creed.

I found myself learning some sorely lacking aspects of the era and geography but also doing some soulsearching not bound by any time or place. In the microcosm of a remote village in the Congo one gets to appreciate a much broader scope of the human experience play out before you. In the end, you may find yourself (like I did) inexorably entranced by these fictional lives and richer for it.

I strongly recommend putting down the magic sword and laser pistol for a couple days and indulging in a heady bouquet of drama, wonder, mysticism and introspection.

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