Although The Poisonwood Bible takes place in the former Belgian Congo and begins in 1959 and ends in the 1990s, Barbara Kingsolver's powerful new book is actually an old-fashioned 19th-century novel, a Hawthornian tale of sin and redemption, and the 'dark necessity' of history ...grappled with social injustice, with the intersection of public events with private concerns and the competing claims of community and individual will — some of the very themes that animate the saga of Nathan Price and his family and their journey into the heart of darkness ... Moving fluently from one point of view to another, Ms. Kingsolver does a nimble job of delineating the Price girls' responses to Africa and their father's decision to uproot them ... One of the things that keeps The Poisonwood Bible from becoming overly schematic and lends the novel a fierce emotional undertow is Ms. Kingsolver's love of detail, her eye for the small facts of daily life.
Despite its uneven quality, The Poisonwood Bible is a vessel that holds our attention and some powerful ideas ...story rotates through a series of monologues by the wife and four daughters of a ferocious Baptist preacher from Bethlehem, Ga., who's determined to bring his version of salvation to the incendiary Congo in 1960 ... The daughters react in strikingly different ways, but Kingsolver's success at portraying them is uneven ... It's weakest when the family splits apart and the characters become mouthpieces for not particularly fresh statements about the abuses of colonialism ...this exciting story will make for particularly good discussion.
Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible is remarkable not just for its story but also for its narrative form ... The Price daughters and their mother narrate in contrapuntal alternation. By turns they describe their lives in a remote Congolese village and the fortunes of Nathan's mission to convert the Congolese ... Kingsolver does not, however, attempt so closely to follow the patterns of everyday speech. The voices of her characters are as much written as spoken ... The clear purpose of the multivocal narrative is to let you piece together the apparently strange world of the Congo from these different accounts.