Hello book lovers! If you are joining us for the Poisonwood Bible Readalong, I hope you are enjoying the book. If you’re visiting for the first time to discuss this book, welcome! This month, Lost in Books, Savvy Working Gal and I are happy to host a readalong of The Poisonwood Bible as part of our Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge.
About Poisonwood Bible
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.
WARNING: THIS DISCUSSION WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. If you haven’t read Books 1 through 3 and don’t want spoilers, please come back to discuss when you are done with those sections. If you want to share your thoughts on Books 1 & 2, please visit last week’s discussion post and we had a great discussion in our Goodreads group too.
Ok, here goes…
Book 2 ended with Patrice Lumumba’s Independence speech as the new Prime Minister. Book 3 begins with Orleanna’s flashback and story about her courtship and quick marriage to Nathan Price. We learn more of Nathan’s backstory before becoming a preacher. The Underdowns have fled the Congo and Nathan decides the Price family will stay despite any financial support from the mission. The book ends with the family escaping the vicious nsongonya, Leah tells Anatole she loves him and there are plans hatching to assassinate Lumumba.
This is where the book really picks up for me. Orleanna’s story about what Nathan went through while he was in the military shed a little light on why perhaps Nathan is adamant about baptizing every Congolese in Kingala. Still this guy rubs me the wrong way, it’s his condescending approach that I don’t like.
I like that Leah’s hero worship of her father is wearing off and she’s realizing he’s human and capable of mistakes. She’s got a fiery spirit and I’m enjoying hearing her voice more in this section.
I loved Brother Fowles, now this is what I think a missionary should be like. A kind spirit who tries to understand his potential congregation, and how their culture and experience impact their beliefs. The calm rational way that Fowles got under Nathan’s skin was fantastic.
I wished that Fowles had more time to spend with Nathan but really enjoyed his contribution to this story. I’ve been Catholic for 13 years now but grew up Hindu. I have some personal reservations about all the rules and hoops we have to jump through to call ourselves Catholic, get communion and reach Heaven. Is the Bible the end all and be all of God’s law? I think the Bible is man’s interpretation of God’s law and no two people interpret the teachings and parables exactly the same. Do the translators read too much into what the stories try to teach us? Barbara Kingsolver says it so much more eloquently but I felt she took it straight out of my head when Brother Fowles tells Leah,
‘God’s word, brought to you be a crew of romantic idealists in a harsh desert culture eons ago, followed by a chain of translators two thousand years long.’ Leah stared at him. ‘Darling, did you think God wrote it all down in the English of King James himself’…’Think of all the duties that were perfectly obvious to Paul or Matthew in that old Arabian desert that are pure nonsense to us now. All that foot washing, for example. Was it really for God’s glory, or just to keep sand out of the house?’…’But I’ll tell you a secret. When I want to take God at his word exactly, I take a peep out the window at His Creation. Because that, darling, He makes fresh for us every day, without a lot of dubious middle managers.”
My belief in God comes from a feeling I have each morning when I’m blessed to wake up and marvel at my sons’ loving eyes staring back at me. Why did God put me here? What’s my life purpose? It’s to be their mom, my husband’s wife and keep God’s gifts to me happy and healthy.
And by the way, oh my word, I’m going to have nightmares about the nsongonya.
1. How has your opinion of the characters changed now that we see more of their story and they’ve been in the Congo for awhile?
2. Does Nathan’s backstory make you more sympathetic to his behavior? I loved the quote: “If his guilt made him a tyrant before men, it made him like a child before God.” How can Nathan be so abusive and righteous at the same time and be two totally different characters? Wouldn’t God want Nathan to be more kind and understanding to His people?
3. Orleanna confides that when Rachel, Leah and Adah were babies, she was so busy being a mother that she “encountered my own spirit less and less.” Have you ever felt that you’ve lost your spirit? How did you get it back? How do you find time for yourself?
4. The Congolese believe strongly in curses. Do you think the Price Family is cursed? Are you superstitious?
5. What do you think of Brother Fowles? Why was he kicked out from the mission program? What did you think of his interaction with Nathan?
6. Did you suspect what Tata Ndu’s true intentions were when he started visiting and bringing gifts to the Price family? Were you surprised that he wanted Rachel for one of his wives given the tension between blacks and whites?
7. Eeben Axelroot: friend or foe?
8. Share some of your favorite quotes from this book.
Join the Conversation on G+ and Goodreads
Don’t forget to join us on Twitter Wednesday, January 14, 2015 from 9-10pm EST for our monthly #TraveltheWorldinBooks chat. A chance to check in with other book lovers, find out where they’re currently reading, get great book recommendations and tell us what future events you’d like to see!
Just announced: our Foodie February 2015 event. Read books about food from around the world in February. More info and sign up for Foodie February 2015 here.
Well that’s it for this week’s discussion. Feel free to answer the discussion questions in the comments, on G+ or Goodreads! And please post your own questions you’d like us all to answer. Please join in the conversation to discuss this thought-provoking book!