Subsequently, we agreed to a hiatus of the club until after Christmas -- so now we won't be discussing this one until January -- but I was already 1/4 of the way into it -- and finding it pretty interesting -- so I decided to keep going.
I will admit that my reading tastes tend to run to Euro/North American-centric settings and authors. I was not entirely sure I was going to like a novel set in the Congo at the end of the colonial era, beginning in 1959 and spanning 30 years (even if it was a tale told from an American perspective).
I was wrong.
"The Poisonwood Bible" is, in part, the story of the Congo's transition to independence. It's also the story of the Price family of Bethlehem, Georgia: Nathan Price, a fiery Baptist minister, his wife and their four daughters, ages 15 through 5, who arrive in a remote Congolese village at this precarious time in its history to preach the gospel and convert the heathen residents. It's pretty clear that they are totally unprepared for what awaits them.
The novel is narrated in turns by Nathan's wife, Orleanna, and each of the four young girls. Five different narrators might sound like a recipe for disaster, but Kingsolver pulls off the feat of making each voice unique, distinctive and memorable, each with a different perspective to offer on the family's story and on Africa. There is Rachel, the petulant teenager, who wants nothing more than to return to her carefree high school life in America; the twins -- Leah, who idolizes her father, and Adah, whose disabilities have not affected her keen powers of observation or description; and little Ruth May, who despite her youth is not as innocent as she seems.
It's a LONG book -- Goodreads tells me the e-copy is 546 pages, but on my Kobo e-reader, with the font size and spacing adjusted to my liking, it was more than double that (almost 1,300 pages). There's a lot about the history and politics of the Congo, which sometimes had my eyes glazing over a little. But the writing is amazing, the characters are vividly drawn, and it kept me reading to find out what ultimately happened to them. As Rachel observes near the end of the book, "You can't just sashay into the jungle aiming to change it all over to the Christian style, without expecting the jungle to change you right back."
4 stars on Goodreads (maybe even 4.5, but not quite a 5 -- see the caveats above).
If you've read this book, I'd love to hear what you thought about it!
This was Book #54 read to date in 2021 (and Book #3 finished in November), bringing me to 150% (!) of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. (I've exceeded my best-ever showing in the Goodreads Challenge since I joined in 2016 -- which was 50 books read in all of 2019.) I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 23 (!) books ahead of schedule. :) You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books."