Fictional story raises real questions about world politics

Add to the list of great books I’ve read this year: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

poisonwood bibleI picked it up because multiple friends suggested it when “list the most meaningful books you’ve read” was making the rounds on Facebook a couple of months ago.

I liked Kingsolver’s The Lacuna, so I was willing to pick up another of her fiction novels. Wow! For fiction, this book presents some hard questions about the nature of civilization, religion and world politics. There’s good reason so many people have read this book.

In a nutshell, it’s the story of a missionary family that moves to the Congo in 1960. The action is recounted from the perspective of the mother and her four daughters; Kingsolver masterfully develops unique voices for each character.

The seed of her interest in Africa comes from a short time living there as a child. She used some of that experience as fodder for the story, and the descriptions ring true.

The book was originally published in 1999. In the notes in the back of the book, Kingsolver says “I wanted to tell this story [about Congo’s bid for independence in 1960] to a million people…I wanted to tell it to all the other people, those who would not normally pick up a book about the historic misjudgments of United States foreign policy — through characters and plot, symbols and allegory.”

She succeeds, marvelously.

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