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Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

I recently started a Book Bucket List where I have a monthly poll for people to decide what my next read should be. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver was voted as my March 2018 read and here is the review!

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Pages: 570
Genre: Historical Fiction/Religion/Classic
Publication Date: 
September 24, 1998
Story Perspective: Alternating First-Person
Themes: African Culture, Missionaries, Religion, Family, Loss, Grief, Redemption, Forgiveness, Coming-Of-Age, Disability, Domestic Abuse, Mental Health, Independence

SynopsisHere comes a story that follows the Price family, who moves to the Belgian Congo in 1959 for missionary work. Nathan Price, a faith-driven Baptist strongly believes in his mission to teach the word of the Lord, even to those who don’t necessarily have the same beliefs. His wife, Orleanna, and daughters, Ruth May, Leah, Adah, and Rachel all follow along and begin a journey that they were well underprepared for.

Not only do the Price family have minimal clothing, resources, and are dealing with trying to avoid diseases and malnutrition, the Congo begins to fight for its freedom from Belgium. An opportunity arises for the family to leave during this unstable time, but stubborn Nathan decides the whole family should stay no matter what. Unfortunately, their experiences afterwards takes a turn for the worse.  

my review

The Poisonwood Bible is split into seven “books”, which are essentially the book’s chapters, and is told through the eyes of the main female characters: five-year-old Ruth May, twins Leah and Adah, teenage Rachel, and their mother, Orleanna.

I really liked how the author switched the character perspective throughout. Though it did take me a bit to distinguish which voice belonged to which character. Once I did, I was able to enjoy the book more. My favorite perspectives were the innocent Ruth May and the unique Adah. I found Rachel’s perspective somewhat annoying and Orleanna’s perspective to be sometimes dry and dull. The author does a nice job in developing each of these characters in a way that seemed authentic and realistic. On the other hand, I did wish that we had more insight into Nathan’s character or maybe one of the Africans to get another side of the story and add even more depth to the novel. Essentially, we follow these white female characters, but no one else.

For the most part, the plot flowed well until the end. I found myself entranced with the harshness of African life in the 60s with its potential lack of food, rain, clothing, and so much more. Its susceptibility to diseases and malnutrition was always around the corner. Throw in some domestic abuse, quarrels of religious beliefs, and trying to live minimally, I was pretty hooked through most of the story telling. However, the content itself didn’t really shed too much light on the living conditions that third-world countries face even today. However, the major flaw of the story was the ending. Though there were some important and interesting information scattered, there was also a lot unnecessary information. It was probably 70-80 pages too long and felt like a completely different book from the rest of the novel, which was very off-putting.

There were some religious undertones in bits and pieces here. Some seemed to have followed what the family went through, while others not so much. I would say the religious references did peter as the book progressed, which I think is supposed to symbolize the family’s faith in general. However, I sometimes found it hard to follow some of the Biblical undertones and how it related to the Price family. That is, if they were meant to be tied together.

With its long-winded ending and not really new material presented, I’d say I found this one somewhat enjoyable. This is a book that was challenging to give a rating to. I was debating whether three or four stars, but after much debate, I decided on a three in the end.

My Rating3 stars


I would recommend this to anyone who would enjoy to read about a family trying to adjust to African culture during the 60s.

Was this a book of my choosing or one for review?
8 out of 50 books of my choosing for 2018!

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

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