The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver

Kingsolver.PoisonwoodAn intricate family chronicle of a missionary family in the Congo—where their faith in Jesus, democracy, and civilization is severely challenged.  Alternating chapters are narrated through different daughters’ points of view.

Opening paragraphsImagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.

First, picture the forest.  I want you to be its conscience, the eyes in the trees.  The trees are columns of slick, brindled bark like muscular animals overgrown beyond all reason.  Every space is filled with life:  delicate, poisonous frogs war-painted like skeletons, clutched in copulation, secreting their precious eggs into dripping leaves.  Vine strangling the own kin in the everlasting wrestle for sunlight.  The breathing of monkeys.  A glide of snake belly on branch.  A single-file army of ants biting a mammoth tree into uniform grains and hauling it down to the dark for their ravenous queen.  And, in reply, a choir of seedlings arching their necks out of rotted tree stumps, sucking life out of death.  This forest eats itself and lives forever.

Quotes from critics“A bravura performance. … A subtle and complex creation, dealing with epic subjects with invention and courage and a great deal of heart.” (Newsday); “Kingsolver’s work is a magnum opus, a parable encompassing a biblical structure and a bibliography, and a believable cast of African characters.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution); “Fully realized, richly embroidered, triumphant.” (Newsweek);
“A powerful new epic. … She has with infinitely steady hands worked the prickly threads of religion, politics, race, sin, and redemption into a thing of terrible beauty.” (Los Angeles Times). 

BioBarbara Kingsolver (1955- ) is an American novelist, essayist, and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in the Congo in her early childhood. She has lived in England, France, and the Canary Islands, and has worked in Europe, Africa, Asia, Mexico, and South America. All of her books published since 1993 have been on the New York Times Best Seller list.  In 2000, Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize to support “literature of social change.”

Also worth reading:  Flight Behavior, just about anything she’s written