Rating: 4/5 stars.
How ironic that I would read The Poisonwood Bible immediately after publishing a blog post defending the merits of YA books. One individual commented about how literary fiction takes themes/motifs/messages and pushes them to the edge. I can see that with Barbara Kingsolver’s work.
Yes, the book preaches about anti-Westernization and the plights of religion. Even though I agree for the most part with Kingsolver’s descriptions of Christianity and colonialism, I can see why those who disagree or dislike her writing style in general would criticize the story. I myself had to trudge through the first 150 pages to get a solid grasp of the characters; I often had to flip to the beginning of each chapter to remind myself whose narration I was reading.
But the characters won me over. It would be easy to write a book report or literary analysis regarding how Kingsolver incorporates themes and motifs like the burden of guilt, the failures of religion, light v. darkness, etc. The way Kingsolver crafted her characters earns this book its four star rating. Reading Leah’s perspective in the last 100 pages in comparison to the first 100 pages feels like reading two different people, but Kingsolver made the massive transition smooth. Each narrator shares her perspective of the events in Africa, growing along the way. Even Rachel, who didn’t develop at all, maintained her voice throughout the story and contributed a thoughtfully thoughtless perspective.
Overall, a time-consuming yet ultimately worthy book about a missionary who travels to Africa with his wife and four daughters. It rarely takes me over a week to finish a work of fiction, but I don’t regret reading The Poisonwood Bible at all.