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 5 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 the previous chapters, find Book 1 and 2 discussion here and Book 3 discussion here. We also have a great discussion in our Goodreads group too.
Ok, here goes…
Book 3 ended with with the family escaping the vicious nsongonya, Leah tells Anatole she loves him and there are plans hatching to assassinate Lumumba. Book 4 begins with Orleanna’s vision of how the US was involved in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese Prime Minister. Tragedy strikes the Price Family and young Ruth May is the victim. The long awaited rain comes to the Congo after her passing and Reverend Price takes the opportunity to baptize the Congolese children who have come to pay respects to Ruth May. The Price Family is forever changed after Ruth May’s passing. Orleanna and the girls leave the Congo without their father and make the long walk to their freedom. Rachel, Leah and Adah take vastly different paths in their lives.
Wow, just wow. Book 4 and the start of Book 5 rip out my heart with Ruth May’s passing. January is always tough for me personally. I grieved deeply with Orleanna remembering the loss of our baby girl 15 years ago this week. I dropped my two younger boys off with their grandparents yesterday and the house is eerily quiet as I am missing their morning snuggles and preparing myself to tell my kids about their older sister. Orleanna’s quotes to open Book 5 pierced my heart:
As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer’s long hair in water. I knew the weight was there but it didn’t touch me. Only when I stopped did the slick, dark stuff of it come floating around my face, catching my arms and throat till I began to drown. So I just didn’t stop.
The substance of grief is not imaginary. It’s as real as rope or the absence of air, and like both those things it can kill. My body understood there was no safe place for me to be.
A mother’s body remembers her babies – the folds of soft flesh, the softly furred scalp against her nose. Each child has its own entreaties to body and soul. It’s the last one, though, that overtakes you.”
Nathan upset me disrespecting his daughter’s memory by attempting to baptize people as they say goodbye to Ruth May. Does baptism still hold significance if the children are unaware of what’s happening? He’s callous. If losing his youngest child doesn’t shake his entire world, I don’t know what will. He called his children “undeserved blessings” and he surely doesn’t deserve them.
I am surprised by how Adah’s and Leah’s lives turn out and how Ruth May’s passing affects them. Adah becomes Orleanna’s youngest and requiring her care.
1. What do you think Nathan’s saying of “Tata Jesus is Bangala!” signifies? In Congolese, when pronounced correctly, Bangala means “something precious and dear”. But the way Nathan says it means “the poisonwood tree”.
2. Orleanna says, “I was occupied so entirely by each day, I felt detached from anything so large as a month or a year. History didn’t cross my mind. Now it does. Now I know, whatever your burdens, to hold yourself apart from the lot of more powerful men is an illusion.” Do you feel like you’re living on auto-pilot? Like history is passing you by? How do you ground yourself and be present in the moment? In the blink of an eye, our kids grow up and we’re decades older.
3. Adah said, “In that other long ago place, America, I was a failed combination of too-weak body and over-strong will. But in Congo I am those things perfectly united: Adah.” Where do you feel you are perfectly united, perfectly whole?
4. What did you think of Adah’s miraculous recovery? Why now was she able to get past her physical handicaps and speak?
5. How does Ruth May’s death impact Leah? Are you surprised she stayed in Africa and married Anatole?
6. Leah gives us a glimpse of life in other parts in Africa. Where children are sold into prostitution and where everything must be bargained for, even medical care. How did her childhood prepare her for her the difficulties of raising biracial boys in Africa?
7. Are you surprised how Rachel turned out and that she stayed in Africa?
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 next Wednesday, January 28, 2015 from 9-10pm EST for our wrapup discussion of The Poisonwood Bible. We will be using the #TraveltheWorldinBooks hashtag during the chat. We’ve had a great discussion so far but it will be fun getting to discuss it live!
Last week we 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!