In the 1960’s Nathan Price, a Baptist minister, drags his family from Georgia to the Congo with the intent of converting the native “heathens” to Christianity. Arriving in the steaming jungle, they find themselves woefully unprepared to live there. Nathan’s insistence on bringing the Congolese to Jesus without understanding them first is ultimately doomed to failure. The story is told in five voices: those of the mother and four daughters (three teens and a five-year-old), each with their own distinct style and personality. The different ways in which they all try to adjust to their new situation in a tiny African village is a telling story all by itself, humorous and tragic by turns. When political turmoil causes all the other missionaries to leave Africa, Nathan Price stubbornly refuses to go. His inflexibility and religious zeal bordering on fanaticism alienates the villagers and eventually his own family as well.
I absolutely love The Poisonwood Bible. It is brilliantly written. The language use is beautiful, the characters very realistic. It is a strong and vivid portrait of Africa in a time of struggle for independence. This is the kind of book that makes you really think. Each time I read it there are new details and things to ponder that I didn’t notice before. It has some heavy themes, but the wry humor and wonderful descriptions of Africa and its people make it a joy to read.