“The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver is a fiction novel. Through the voices of five women she tells the dramatic story of life as an American in Africa. Beginning in the sixties and spanning five decades we see the coming of age of four girls and their mother who were brought to the Congo by their passionate, eccentric, missionary father.
I could relate to the book on so many levels. Though it is not necessarily a book I would draw my theology from it gave me cause to pause and consider what I do, why I do it, what I believe and why I believe it.
As a Christian… I was challenged to see how much of our ‘doctrine’ is drawn from cultural practices.
As a woman… I became more aware of the complexities the female creature presents. Also, the strength and capacity to endure possessed by womankind.
As a missionary… My emotions ranged from appalled to amazed to embarrassed to enraged. The general concept of a missionary portrayed in the pages was basically everything wrong to do in missions.
As a mother… The truth resounded in my heart that we, as mothers, do the very best we know to do. We strive, sacrifice and suffer to the end of feeling that all we have done is not good enough. The sweet dark African husband Anatole to his dear white wife and mother of their children says as he is being taken to prison, “Be kind to yourself.” That is speaking the truth in love.
As a wife… I am deeply grateful for the good, kind husband who I have at my side. Words cannot express my gratitude.
As a writer… The imagery is fabulous. The rich language with meanings that twist around two or three intended purposes whetted my appetite to write. She had me laughing, crying and throwing my hands up in frustration. To be able to move people like that with my writing would be so satisfying.
As an inhabitant of a third world country… The unending political struggles hit so close to home. The truth is that not everyone wants to be rich. Universally the need to have our life matter is what our struggle to survives drives us towards.
Overall I enjoyed reading the book. I would recommend it for those who do not have a weak stomach and are wanting to grapple with deep soulful things.