The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Novel

79%

32 Critic Reviews

In watching these two Price sisters grow up...the reader is made to understand not only the ways in which a father's sins are visited upon (and expiated by) his children, but also the ways in which private lives can be shaped and shattered by public events.
-NY Times

Synopsis

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 everything 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. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

The novel is set against one of the most dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo's fight for independence from Belgium, the murder of its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy. Against this backdrop, Orleanna Price reconstructs the story of her evangelist husband's part in the Western assault on Africa, a tale indelibly darkened by her own losses and unanswerable questions about her own culpability. Also narrating the story, by turns, are her four daughters—the self-centered, teenaged Rachel; shrewd adolescent twins Leah and Adah; and Ruth May, a prescient five-year-old. These sharply observant girls, who arrive in the Congo with racial preconceptions forged in 1950s Georgia, will be marked in surprisingly different ways by their father's intractable mission, and by Africa itself. Ultimately each must strike her own separate path to salvation. Their passionately intertwined stories become a compelling exploration of moral risk and personal responsibility.

Dancing between the dark comedy of human failings and the breathtaking possibilities of human hope, The Poisonwood Bible possesses all that has distinguished Barbara Kingsolver's previous work, and extends this beloved writer's vision to an entirely new level. Taking its place alongside the classic works of postcolonial literature, this ambitious novel establishes Kingsolver as one of the most thoughtful and daring of modern writers.

 

About Barbara Kingsolver

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Barbara Kingsolver is the author of seven works of fiction, including the novels The Poisonwood Bible, Animal Dreams, and The Bean Trees, as well as books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction such as Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In 2000, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country's highest honor for service through the arts. She lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.
 
Published October 13, 2009 by HarperCollins e-books. 570 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction, Business & Economics, Arts & Photography. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Jan 27 2013
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Poisonwood Bible
All: 32 | Positive: 25 | Negative: 7

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 20 2010

Better even than Robert Stone in his otherwise brilliant Damascus Gate, Kingsolver convinces us that her characters are, first and foremost, breathing, fallible human beings and only secondarily conduits for her book’s vigorously expressed and argued social and political ideas. A triumph.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Nov 02 1998

Kingsolver moves into new moral terrain in this powerful, convincing and emotionally resonant novel.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Oct 16 1998

In watching these two Price sisters grow up...the reader is made to understand not only the ways in which a father's sins are visited upon (and expiated by) his children, but also the ways in which private lives can be shaped and shattered by public events.

Read Full Review of The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by John Mullan on May 03 2013

Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible is remarkable not just for its story but also for its narrative form. It has five narrators. Orleanna Price and her four daughters accompany her husband Nathan Price, a Baptist missionary, to the Congo in 1959.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Maurice A. Williams on Mar 24 2008

She presents a harsh picture of American involvement in the political affairs of the Congo...Here again, I thought she was too harsh. To be fair, no one can extract, in a few thousand words, an accurate and objective appraisal of what happened at that time.

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Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Carol Ratelle Leach on Nov 14 1998

In the end...Kingsolver conquers Congo more effectively than all those who sought to plunder its diamond and rubber mines or convert its people.

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Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Jami Edwards on Oct 01 1999

...by the end, we are ready to keen and sing right along with her, finding it almost impossible to bear... or ever to forget... the heavy and tantalizing fruit of THE POISONWOOD BIBLE.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by DANEET STEFFENS on Nov 13 1998

The Poisonwood Bible begins in 1959, but Kingsolver's narrators, the wife and four daughters of the fire-and-brimstone-breathing preacher, don't stop talking until the present day, peeling back layers of family dynamics and creating a complex, timely portrayal of a region...

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Christian Science Monitor

Above average
Reviewed by Ron Charles on Oct 18 2009

...Kingsolver is a favorite of American book clubs, and the strands of history and politics woven through this exciting story will make for particularly good discussion.

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Pajiba

Good
Reviewed by Teabelly on Jun 02 2010

...all in all, it is a wonderful, beautiful book, and I am sure I will come back to it many times again in the future.

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Pajiba

Below average
Reviewed by Brian Prisco on Mar 09 2009

I wish Kingsolver had chopped off the last two books, and just ended with the beautiful final passage. Otherwise, it was a fine read, and with the many recommendations, I will definitely pick up Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. But I don’t think I’ll read any of her other books. Sorry, Babs. The timing just was bad for the both of us.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Bapalapa2 on Jun 11 2014

Told from the four sisters' perspectives, The Poisonwood Bible offers a unique array of characters as well as insight into the American dream.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Bapalapa2 on Jun 11 2014

Barbara Kingsolver offers a piece of the heart so realthat we can't help but cry at the characters' sorrows, laugh at their joy andbeat our fists in anguish at their suffering.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by mrobyns on Jun 11 2014

Foster said to think of “Every trip as a quest,” even when it did not seem to be. After reading the first chapter of How to Read Literature Like a Professor, it became clear that the Poisonwood Bible consisted of the 5 components of a quest.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by elizabethlarsen121 on Jun 11 2014

I think that Barbara Kingsolver set out to write this book hoping to show many things to the readers...Even though adults may be the target audience, I think that this book has many lessons to share with all.

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Yahoo! Voices

Good
Reviewed by Sharayah Pranger on Jun 23 2011

This book will appeal to a wide base of readers- particularly those who love historical fiction and books about different cultures and places. The point of view is first-person, with each of the 5 women narrating in turn, which keeps each chapter fresh and interesting.

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Yahoo! Voices

Below average
Reviewed by Joel Hathaway on Mar 31 2011

...having begun to nobly, so faithfully, to convey the parallels between the angry Rev. Price and the decadent Anglos-abusers of Africa-Kingsolver ultimately falls into philosophic hyperbole and penchant idealism. As the book draws on, she flips through years and pages with the all-too-predictable outcome...

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Yahoo! Voices

Good
Reviewed by Traveler 2010 on Apr 08 2010

The Poisonwood Bible is a brilliant work of fiction which encompasses several themes. Kingsolver writes beautifully, and her love of language is played out in Rachel's comic butchering of phrases and words; and Adah's tendency towards palidromes and reading backwards.

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Brothers Judd

Below average
on Jun 11 2014

This was, quite simply, the most hateful book that I have ever read. This 550 page diatribe against Western Civilization in general & white, male, able-bodied, Christians in specific, is shockingly intolerant.

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Literate Housewife

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer on Sep 07 2010

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.

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You've GOTTA Read This

Good
Reviewed by Sandy Nawrot on Oct 28 2008

The book is a fascinating tale of a family living through a momentous time in African history - it truly is a history lesson...Kingsolver's prose is unmatched.

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Caribous Mom

Excellent
Reviewed by Wendy on Jul 12 2008

This is a novel which begs to be read, if only for its magnificent scope. In The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver demonstrates exactly why she is an author who is lauded and recommended over and over again.

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Where Pen Meets Paper

Good
Reviewed by Donovan Richards on Mar 28 2011

Although The Poisonwood Bible is a sad story about the ways a family falls apart on the mission field, Kingsolver writes well and approaches dense subjects with honesty. I recommend this book!

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My Books. My Life.

Above average
Reviewed by Michelle on Jan 19 2012

Kingsolver is clearly a talented writer who is not afraid to tackle some controversial issues, and I look forward to reading her again. I am glad that I finally got to this one, which has been sitting on my shelf for a long time...

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http://www.theepochtimes.com

Above average
Reviewed by Molly A. Daniels-Ramanujan on Jan 10 2005

Shelves of books have been written about Conrad�s Heart of Darkness, but there�s been no serious study of Poisonwood, which is a novel worth re-reading.

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The Quiet Voice

Good
on Feb 11 2013

Overall, a time-consuming yet ultimately worthy book about a missionary who travels to Africa with his wife and four daughters. It rarely takes me over a week to finish a work of fiction, but I don’t regret reading The Poisonwood Bible at all.

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Stargazerpuj's Book Blog

Excellent
on Feb 21 2011

Anyone who enjoys literary fiction, is interested in character study or has some interest in Africa – history and present, specifically the Congo, should not miss reading The Poisonwood Bible. This is one of those powerful books that will stay with me…

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Your Move, Dickens

Good
Reviewed by Darlyn on Feb 27 2012

I highly recommend The Poisonwood Bible, and, if you can get your hands on a copy, please read it. I’ve already said this much about it, but I don’t think I’m done yet.

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Publishing A Book Is An Adventure

Good
Reviewed by Jessica Dall on Jan 05 2012

...The Poisonwood Bible gives an interesting peak into the lives of a family thrown into turmoil in the Belgian Congo, giving readers an enjoyable, if not amazing, read.

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Young Adult Book Reviews

Excellent
Reviewed by Lauren Pyle on Dec 01 2010

...it often made me close the book and think about our society today, and how we must respond to crises similar to the ones in this book. RECOMMENDED.

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chasing bawa

Good
on Aug 29 2010

The Poisonwood Bible is a brilliant, heartfelt and passionate love letter to Africa and the problems it faces. Kingsolver manages to combine a family saga, a political treatise and a love story into a wonderful book and I finished the book impressed...

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http://testprep.about.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Kelly Roell on Jul 11 2013

The descriptions are vivid and rich, and your sympathy for the plight of some of these girls (not all!) kicks in immediately when you realize what they've been asked to do. Trust me, this one's a great read.

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Morgan Bliss 8 Oct 2014

Rated the book as 4 out of 5

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