Monday, June 13, 2011

On Rereading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

No matter how much I enjoy a book, I rarely read one more than once. Almost the only time I reread is for book clubs. It's been a decade since I read The Poisonwood Bible - too long ago to properly engage in a book discussion on it tomorrow evening. I could only remember that it's about an insane American missionary who moves with his family to the jungle in the Belgian Congo and that the narration alternates between the wife and four daughters. I also remembered that the pace slows down somewhere towards the middle of the book and that I wasn't as keen on the end part as the beginning.

Sometimes skimming is all I need to refresh my memory on a book I've read. Kingsolver is such an engaging writer, however, that I simply could not skim. I was immediately caught up in the story and read all 543 pages. It starts in 1959, at the brink of momentous changes about to take place in the Belgian Congo. After the immediacy of the girls' accounts of their experiences during their first year in the village of Kilanga, a larger view of political and economic upheaval is brought into perspective in the latter part of the book (the part that I had remembered as being rather slow) when the daughters continue to take turns, but their telling skips forward in big chunks of time. I found myself really appreciating Kingsolver's insights into the complicated current history of this part of Africa. 

If you haven't yet read The Poisonwood Bible, it's an epic family saga with memorable characters involved in an astonishingly foolhardy adventure not of their choosing. Highly recommended for rereading, too!


avisannschild said...

I've read this book twice as well and loved it both times. It's my favourite of all her books. Hope your book club enjoyed it too!

Lindy said...

Yes, everyone in book group enjoyed it. We found that it stimulated a lot of discussion, too.