Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Poisonwood Bible

"In the end, my lot was cast with the Congo. Poor Congo, barefoot bride of the men who took her jewels and promised the Kingdom." -Orleanna Price, The Poisonwood Bible (p.201)

What do I think of this book? It is a little difficult to say. I find that I neither love nor hate it, often changing my mind about it even mid-sentance. Maybe that is a sign of a good book since it aroused so many different feelings, but I am therefore unable to really recomend it to anyone else. So let me tell you what I think of the book bit by bit and you can decide what you want to think of it all.

This book is about a family led to the Congo by Mr. Price, husband to Orleanna and father to Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May, to preach to the natives of a village named Kilanga the word of God. The world of differences from language to dress stand out as the white Prices try to join this community of black natives while holding onto their American ways. This way of thinking leads the family into many hardships; the father's point of view about God leads to many more. The story goes beyond their 17 month stay in Kilanga to what the girls and mother, and brief bits are said about the father, did afterwards.

While I like the story line of the plot, it is an interesting tale about a family most of us can relate to trapped in a world alien enough to be almost considered as another planet, and the way in which it was written, each chapter told from a different daughter's point of view, some of the content was lacking in my opinion. There were points in the story where I almost wished I could put the book down, although only rarely and briefly was this because of the slow pace of the story, mostly it was because of my dislike of the characters.
I believe the book was written for the reader to hate the father. That is just how it is. Mr. Price is a extremely hard man to like, driving even his wife and daughters mad over time. And the way in which the girls refer to him as "Father" (capitol F) is almost like they seem him as they would God, and he seems to encourage this point of view. There are points where I was mad at him for so much I soon began to wonder why Mrs. Price married him in the first place. Which is why the chapters in which she revisits the past are so important.
Soon I found myself also disliking Rachel. She is beyond annoying, reaching deep into the reader and finding that feeling of near detestation that one saves for those people who they know they will never be able to understand and find common footing with. She takes the state of narcissism to a whole new level, being so ego-centric, greedy, and holier-than-thou as to make me want to put her on a level with her father!And as a writer I was constantly gritting my teeth at her misspelled words and incorrect use of others.

So why did I even like the book? Because the others made up for it. You can't help but love many of the villagers for their simply way of living and thinking. When Leah delves into their life-style and explains it, everything suddenly makes sense. More than once I found myself wondering why I didn't live life this way. It even made me feel guilty for ever thinking that I had less than I needed, for these people sometimes didn;t even have enought o survive.
Then Leah was so intellegant and curious, her chapters help to explain so much about the world in which this family finds themselves, helping the reader along in thought.
Adah is so unique in her thinking that I found myself loving her chapter the most in the beginning. They were filled with little bits of poetry, riddles, codes, and other curiosities. Her chapters nearly always put a little smile on my face.
And Ruth May in all her young innocence made me love the view of the world that she held. While they each talk about the natives and their innocence, the girls are still left not fully understanding, and therefore unable to discribe, their way of thinking. However, with Ruth May her innocence is plain to her and so she makes you see her reasoning.

The last hundred or so pages had me torn the most. There were plenty of times when I believed the story should have ended at one point or another, only to keep reading and discover that more information had been given that I am glad had been added in for the reader's benefit. These girls' lives did not stop at the Congo, therefore they needed to continue to share their stories. And there were wonderful moments, beautiful times, sad events, and lives to be lived in those last hundred pages that I am so glad were there.

And the end! I think a better ending could not have been found. And it was a kind of wonderful moment as I read it: Most of this book I ended up reading aloud to Livia as we sat on the front porch. As I approach the last few paragraphs, she began to grow antsy. So with just the smallest bit left, I picked her up, stood her in my lap, and read to her the last few sentences, her cheek pressed to mine. As the words left I found my voice growing raspy with emotion, tears just beginning to threaten my eyes. I closed the book and kissed my daughter, who smiled. Such an incredible ending I believe that if all the rest of the book had been horrible, this would have made up for it.

So I leave the book with mixed emotions. At times I found myself wanting to rant and rave about how terrible the US is. How we always seem to think that we know the better way. But also how there are those that want so desperately to help these other countries that they put their lives on the line to stand up for what they think is best. I grew angry with Mr. Price, the epitome of everything I hate about organized religion. But sad when Leah feels she is abandoned by the God she tried so hard for so long to be good for. I loved the people of Kilanga for persevere through everything they are thrown. And I hated others for the harsh ways of life they threw at their own contrymen. As I have said, this book aroused many extreme feelings and left me wondering what I truelly thought of it.

I will say that I am glad I was given the chance to read it. It opened my eyes a little more to a world outside my own, and one that actually existed. I recommend that everyone read this book. Whether you think you will like it or not. Even if you put it down in the end and think that you hated it. I believe that you can get something out of it just as I have. Since this is a fairly popular book from what i have seen, please feel free to share your opinion in the comments section. I would really love to know what everyone else thinks about it.
And if you haven't, find a copy and read it. It may change you.

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