Saturday, February 19, 2011

Week 56: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

An enormous work of fiction and true-life research, Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible thrilled me with its interesting twists and turns, and beautiful deadliness.

I love books written from several different perspectives. The story of the fiery preacher from Georgia, husband and father of four, is told from his wife and children's perspectives. Spanning more than 50 years, the story is also told in past and present tense. It sounds confusing but the story was put together in a way that eased from one person to the next. No confusion.

The story of a missionary (Rev. Price) and his wife and four daughters begins ordinarily enough. They arrive in Congo, Africa (now Zaire and Angola) to preach to the natives and win souls for Jesus. As Congo's government is transferred from Belgium back to its native Congolese, their family's survival swings in the balance.

What I most appreciated was Kingsolver's ability to write to the moment - in other words, showing only what the characters in the book understood - making the reader realize the characters' ignorance and naivete as they do. I also enjoyed her stability within characters - she kept their voices so defined - so that jumping between perspectives was not difficult, but fun.

Kingsolver is an elegant and smart writer, there's no doubt. But she's also enormously verbose. I hate to say it, but about a hundred pages from the end, I was wishing for the story to end. I hung on until the end but it was tough. I still loved it, but it could have ended about a hundred pages before it did. Just my opinion.

Whatever the length, the work that went into The Poisonwood Bible in sheer research was evident to me. Great book, all in all.

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