The Poisonwood Bible

I just finish reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It was recommended to me by a fellow teacher when I was working in Bangladesh. My colleague, a former hairdresser from British Columbia, had lived in Chad when she was growing up, as her parents worked for the American Embassy. While Chad was a tough and sometimes dangerous place to be, I believe that she had bitter - sweet memories of her time there. I can see why she would connect to Kingsolver's book. The Poisonwood Bible is the story of an American missionary who takes his family to the Belgian Congo in 1959.

Another friend of mine, an avid reader who enjoys both fiction and nonfiction, says that with each book she reads she hopes to learn at least one new thing. In my recent read about the missionary family trying to survive in the Congo during a time of political turbulence, I learned more than one "new thing".

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

In regard to the history and countries of Africa, I have to admit that I am very ignorant. I was in Morocco years ago and met a few people from South Africa, but that's about it. I was surprised to learn (which again shows my ignorance), about the effects of colonization in African countries like the Congo and the involvement of the US and Russia who were interested only in taking resources and gaining control. I was especially disappointed to learn about the role of the US in ousting one Congolese leader in favor of one who proved to have a devastating effect on the people and country. I may have to give up reading anything historical if I don't want hear any more "bad news"!

Aside from learning about African hardships like, lack of food, ant invasions, malaria and hookworms, Kingsolver's novel had some comic relief. For example, a woman called Mama Tataba was helping the mother of the family find and cook local meat options:

"She was handy at cooking anything living or dead, but heaven be praised, Mother rejected the Monkey, with its little dead grin. She told Mama Tataba we could get by on things that looked less like kinfolk."

I also realized that I must have been asleep during elementary science class. Apparently in order for most plants to produce fruit or vegetables, pollination is required. .... ah I knew that! In the book the Kentucky Wonder Beans that they brought with them,(hoping to feed the masses of Africa) produced great stocks and lush leaves but no beans! The Congolese insects had no idea what to do with a Kentucky Wonder Bean! I wish that was the case for the deer in my backyard!

The book follows the lives of the family, including five daughters over several decades. It is a fascinating tale!  
......... now the quest for a new "good read"!


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