Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oprah's Book Club Selection #1 - The Poisonwood Bible

This is the beginning of my new project, reading one selection from Oprah's Book Club each month, and reporting on it in a Wednesday blog.  April's book is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

This 1998 novel is set primarily in Africa, The Belgian Congo.  It is the story of a fanatically-religious man, his wife and four daughters.  Nathan Price, the patriarch, is a Baptist minister who moves his family to Africa in 1959 to save souls and bring the Africans to Christ.  This is really the story of the girls, ranging in age from 5 to 15 at the beginning of the novel, and is told in the voices of the four girls and Orleanna, their mother.

The mother and daughters struggle to absorb the cruel changes from their lives in the United States (Georgia), while dealing with their father's unstable fanaticism and rigidity.  The Congo's turbulent politics of the 1960's intertwine with the struggles of the women as the girls age and begin to grow up.  It becomes obvious that their father, increasingly belligerant, will never leave Africa, and the women are faced with difficult choices as the Congo's government becomes more and more unstable.

The fates of Orleanna and the girls take widely different paths as the 1960's give way to the 1970's, 1980's and finally, 1990's.

If you have read some of Kingsolver's earlier works such as The Bean Trees, you will be surprised at The Poisonwood Bible.  Extensive research obviously went into this highly-detailed historical novel, and it appears that Kingsolver grew up as an author with The Poisonwood Bible.

I highly recommend The Poisonwood Bible.  Kingsolver just gets better and better as she ages and evolves as an author.  Her latest, The Lacuna, tops The Poisonwood Bible by a hair.  If you choose The Poisonwood Bible as your next read, you won't regret it!

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