This book was fantastic, but it should have ended 2/3 of the way through. Barbara Kingsolver failed to capture the same spark when the characters moved into adulthood as she did when they were children. When they each separated, it became a series of incomplete and rushed narratives rather than an intricate and playful 5 perspectives of a shared experience. Unfortunately, that continued for nearly half of the novel. It was enjoyable, but I spent a long time hoping the book would recapture what it never managed to.
As with The Sheltering Sky, The Poisonwood Bible was reminiscent of Heart of Darkness. Perhaps more directly influenced in ways, Kingsolver gave more insight into the humanity of the natives than Conrad or Bowles. Still, there was always the sense that the main characters could never fully integrate into the culture they were flung into.
Part of the reason why I so deeply enjoyed reading this book was because it connected with some of my own experiences, both first and second-hand. When I was 17, I travelled to Kenya and was more or less isolated in a small city there while doing volunteer work. Kenya of the early 2000’s is in no way like the Belgian Congo during the mid-2oth century, but I felt that my experience lent to my ability to visualize the culture and landscape being described.
I was also reminded of how I presume to imagine my mother’s childhood. She is one of four daughters of a mother who is very smart but prone to staying in bed for periods of time. The five of them lived under my grandfather, who is a passionate and forceful man with difficultly relating to others and prone to waxing extremely religious. As children, they were subject to his whim dragging them across the country repeatedly, once nearly moving to Iran on the eve of the terrorism of the 1972 Munich Olympics, which cancelled their trip. I haven’t spent an abundance of time with these relatives, and so it is very easy for me to assign what little I know of them to characters, thereby filling in the gaps of the people that I suppose them to be. Hopefully I do them no insult in doing so.
Would I read more by this author?: Eagerly.
Rating: 8/10 (first half 10/10)