Saturday, April 25, 2009

'The Poisonwood Bible' Evokes Emotions Buried or Never Felt

Review of THE POISONWOOD BIBLE (Brilliance Audio on CD Unabridged 2004)
By guest blogger Star Lawrence

hor, Barbara Kingsolver; read by Dean Robertson

Everyone has told me for years that I should read Barbara Kingsolver, so naturally I never had. Then, on a quick library run for disks and not liking female readers too much for reasons I have described elsewhere, I grabbed this book because it looked long and was read by Dean Robertson. Funny about that—Dean is a woman, and with her rapid, ironical and slightly twangy delivery, is the best thing about this book—except for the fantastic writing.

Even if you were not alive during the Congo uprisings in 1959 (I remember reading about this), THE POISONWOOD BIBLE will capture you into a family story so engrossing you won’t want to leave your characters . . . your friends, almost your own siblings. My own father was dominant, bossy, a little scary and always completely correct in everything he said or did. Just ask him—or he would tell you, anyway. Nathan Price is a dogmatic preacher, who bustles his "whither-thou-goest" Georgia wife and four daughters off to Africa on a missionary trip that alters all their lives forevermore. He made me think of my father. His quiet wife, who provides only glimpses of her inner life and any regrets or signs of rebellion, made me wonder what my mother had been thinking all those years of our childhood.

But enough about me. You will thrill to the racing poetry of Kingsolver's dry wit and descriptions of Africa and a small village in upheaval as forces of man and nature try to claim and reclaim the rampant lushness and bounty of that continent.

As the decades march on, the four daughters and their mother struggle to cope with a central tragedy. "Life marks you," the mother murmurs, with typical understatement. They go their separate ways, two staying in Africa and two going back to the United States. Wait, someone is missing. Yes, someone is. Actually, two people, don't forget the preacher.

If you like big "saga" type "listens," this is the one for you. Sixteen hours well spent. Not counting the hours you will spend thinking about it afterward.

Star Lawrence is a writer in Chandler, AZ, and can be reached at She's a frequent contributor to The Book Grrl and authors the blog Do the Hopey Copey, a humorous how-to guide to handling the recession.

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