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The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Published by Faber & Faber, 1999

Nathan Price is a passionate evangelical Baptist who takes his wife and four daughters from Georgia, U.S.A. to the Belgian Congo in 1959. He is a determined and zealous missionary worker who will stop at nothing in his attempts to bring his version of the Bible to this part of Africa. It spans three decades as the lives of an entire family are altered forever.

The novel is narrated by five of its characters, the mother Orleanna and her four daughters, Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth-May. They are totally unprepared for life in the Congo - " we came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle". (Leah)
The book begins slowly but is worth persevering with. It is a powerful, emotional and tragic story, interspersed with some humour in the character of Rachel. It raises issues relating to colonialism and missionary work and themes such as freedom and destiny are explored. The story is at times disturbing as the family encounters pain and cruelty. The book flags slightly towards the end but it is well-written, well-researched and definitely recommended.

Reviewed by a local Book Club