The Poisonwood Bible Study Guide

The Poisonwood Bible Study Guide

Original title:
The Poisonwood Bible
Published July 5th 2005 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published September 24th 1998)
Bethlehem, Georgia,1959(United States)
Sanderling Island, Georgia(United States)
…more Leopoldville,1959(Congo)
ISBN 0060786507 (ISBN13: 9780060786502)

“The Poisonwood Bible” offers a different outlook on migration literature. Barbara Kingsolver talks about an American family who relocated to Africa. The text has made a powerful impact on the Western readers who often find themselves entrapped in the bubble of their smooth everyday life.

The story takes place at the end of the 1950s. The protagonists are the Prince family: a father who is a Baptist minister, a mother, and 4 daughters. They live a good life in the state of Georgia. At one point the head of the family is sent to Congo as a missionary with a goal to enlighten the people of Africa. Of course, the family follows him.

At the time of their arrival to Congo their oldest daughter was 15, the twins Leah and Adah were 14 and the youngest was only 4 years old. The process of assimilating with a rough life of a wild African continent begins. The country, which suffered a lot of wars, famine and gender violence, accepts the newcomers with cold welcomes.  

The family builds a new network of friends and colleagues, they grow food, try to survive, experience the political instability of the country, and lose the hopes of ever coming back to the USA. The exposure to missionary work also has its influences on the family. Will their religion bring joy and light to the tribes they are teaching?

“The Poisonwood Bible” is quite a lengthy text that is rich in descriptions and meanings. Different characters, mostly the daughters and Leah in particular, narrate the story.  Thus the different styles of the chapters, different focuses and the diverse feelings they evoke in the reader.

The book makes the reader think and want more information about the history of Congo. It also evokes the “what if” questions and makes us think about how unpredictable the life is.

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