Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Poisonwood Bible

Barbara Kingsolver in her book,The Poisonwood Bible has told a rich, detailed, yet flawed story of a family torn between religions, cultures, and relationships.

A fiery Baptist preacher, his wife and four daughters head into the ruthless and vengeful jungle of the Congo in 1960 to do missionary work. This historic narrative is told through the eyes of the sisters and mother. It alternates viewpoints from one chapter to another and traces approximately 40 years of history. Their voices seemed authentic and sad. I felt as though I was reading a biography of real people going through real turmoil. The father figure is ruthless, (more about him in a moment).The family meets not only with the dangers of nature and the Congo natives but their worse enemy may have be their ownselves!

Although, I found her style of writing to be thrilling and very imaginative her negative outlook towards Christians and America is apparent on almost every page. The father is hard-headed, oppressive, and exhibits no love toward those to whom he's preaching the gospel and no love towards his own family. He's a hypocrite of the worse fashion and yet he's the only "real believer" in the story. The entire family rejects the faith of their father and the author presents this as a positive thing. I kept gettting the feeling that if Kingsolver would have put as much research into real Christians as she did African culture the book would have been 100 times better! She's very sympathetic towards paganism.

Overall it was is both funny, thrilling and sad in parts but I found her bias against Christian missionaries to be diappointing. A pageturner but a turn-off ultimately.


Anonymous said...

Hi Chris! I loved the book- I read it several summers ago so I may not remember everything but in my opinion- Kingsolver does a great job (maybe not intentionally) showing the negative aspects of legalism. The father added to his salvation with his good works and thought it was his responsibility to bring others to Christ. His bitterness and anger toward God was a grave result of his failure to "save the natives". Because of his legalism and HIS (meaning not God's leading) strong desire to be a great preacher of the Gospel in Africa and win souls for Christ, the whole family suffered. Anyway, that's what I thought. I'm not sure Kingsolver is a Christian, but maybe she's suffered the hurts of a church somewhere playing church....I loved the characters and the situations described in the book. Lita

Chris said...

Yes Lita. I get a sense Kingsolver has either been hurt or severely misunderstands the Gospel and the Christian Faith. She very much does understand and very accurately portrays legalism in all it's rotten grandeur!

Neal Buck said...

Interesting analysis. Aleah read it and really enjoyed it. I haven't yet had the pleasure. A MK at my church found it very compelling, though. Anyway, have you read Gap Creek by Robert Morgan? I think you might find it very interesting, particularly in regard to the end of the novel. From what you've said about Kingsolver's book, Morgan's might make interesting counterbalance.

Chris said...

Neal, I thoroughly enjoyed her prose and character development,(I was rivited all the way to the end of the book) but I got a sense she tried to embody Christians in general through her portrayal of the father figure. And another glaring flaw... There's not a Baptist I've ever met in my life who would be an advocate of the Apocrypha. There you have it!