Thursday, April 16, 2009

Review: Greetings from Africa

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The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is a modern classic that has so many components rolled into one book: historical fiction, memoir, political statement. The story follows a family from Georgia that moves to the Congo as missionaries in the 1960s. The move was decided by Nathan, the father, who believes God chose him to save the heathens abroad. He is a zealous Southern Baptist preacher whose beliefs and actions often contradict mainstream Christianity. The narrative, however, is told by the five women in the family; the mother, Orleanna, introduces each section of the book with a chapter reflecting on life in Africa after decades have passed, while the four daughters–Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May–alternate chapters to tell the story as it was happening. The 1960s brought political upheaval to the region as Belgium granted independence to the Congo (thus becoming Zaire), causing wars, assassinations, and cover-ups by the UN. The author uses her characters to showcase different reactions to the changes taking place in the Congo. They see the changes through the eyes of an American trying to adjust to a new lifestyle, but they also learn the complexities and customs of the natives and develop a new perspective. Kingsolver does an amazing job displaying contradicting viewpoints and illustrating many sides of the story. She intricately develops five very different characters, each described so specifically that the reader feels as though (s)he can predict their thoughts and reactions. The constant change in perspective is refreshing, because the narrative is continuous. I finished this book fulfilled, yet wanting to know more about the history and environment in which the story was set.

1 comment:

J.T. Oldfield said…

so did you like it then? I did. here's my review with some ideas of what to read next:

http://bibliofreakblog.com/fiction/poisonwood-bible-iby-barbara-kingsolveri/