Friday, April 11, 2008

The Poisonwood Bible

Nutmeg's book club was hosted by Erin this month. She chose The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. For once I thought I would take a stab at the monthly book. I finished it a little late, but oh well.

My first impression of this book was that I couldn't stand the author's style. However, it turned out that she had five different styles: one for each of the women in the Price family. Luckily, only the mother's narrative was convoluted and abstract.

Out of the five narrators, I liked the oldest daughter's the best. Hers were the least substantial, but also the most humorous. She was exceedingly narcissistic and stupid. To be pretentious she would try to use large words, but would inevitably use the wrong word, which would result in some funny meaning which she never intended.

My next thought concerning the book was that, with all due respect to Erin, the story reinforces my opinion that families shouldn't go abroad to be missionaries. (Forgive me, Erin. I have no idea in what capacity your family served as missionaries, or what the circumstances were.)

The father in the book was amazing. Nathan Price was the most self-righteous man who ever walked the face of the earth. He would never listen to correction, even when not doing so made him look like a fool. Because he mispronounced the native language, he would consistently say, "Jesus is a poisonwood tree. If you want your children to be saved, they need to be terrorized." If someone tried to tell him otherwise, he would get angry. His holier-than-thou, self-righteous Bible-quoting attitude reminded me a lot of the wife in Flannery O'Connor's story Parker's Back. They both make me wonder how much of a Christian I really am. Is my prideful attitude going to harm my salvation? I don't think I am prideful, but neither did they and they clearly aren't true Christians. On one hand, I don't want to be like them, but on the other, I don't want to pray like the Pharisee, "Thank you God that I am not like them."

What I liked best was how Africa was described. Leah, and to some extent Rachel, spoke of the vastness and beauty of Africa in such a way that it sounded almost mystical. I got the impression that it was a much more powerful continent than any of the others. In the others, man is able to submit that land to his will, but in Africa, man submits to nature. An example would be that the cities are very unnatural and it is easier to survive in the jungle. Another is that they can't build normal roads because the jungle overtakes them.

Overall, I would say the book was just okay. I didn't hate it, but I don't think I would recommend it either.

1 comment:

Erin said...

I feel so foolish that I missed your review! I forgot to check back in after the initial postings at 'meg's blog!

Just one quick thing, having been in the mission field myself, and having known several families who have been in it as well, I feel I have to point out that the Price Family disaster was an incredibly atypical experience, and I don't think that theirs is a good model to use as reinforcement for your opinions on this matter. (And you haven't offended me, either! The mission field is definitely not for everyone,and I can definitely see your POV on families in the missions...)

I don't think Barbara Kingsolver is a big fan of organized religion, and I feel that she WANTS her readership to look down on large families, and missionaries, and especially the two together!