People have been telling me to read The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel for at least 10 years. It's funny, several people told me to read it, but those same people didn't want to give up their copy even for a few weeks to give me the chance to read it. So, eventually, I bought my own copy and let it sit on my shelf for another 2 to 3 years while I thought about maybe reading it one day.
Now that I've finally gotten around to reading it, I can see why so many people told me that I ought to. This book is so serious and so fun at the same time. Fun because it has all the things I love- good characterization, great plot and dramatic tension. Serious because it deals with issues of racism and colonialism and other general biases that Americans have. Kingsolver does a fantastic job of dealing with these serious issues while grounding them in the lives of these characters.
My big concern with this book is the way that Orleanna deals with her daughter's death. We as readers know that the death is coming, but what I wasn't prepared for was the way the family completely disperses afterward. As a mother, you would expect Orleanna to take care of all of her daughters and keep her family together in the face of such a horrible tragedy. However, she allows the family to break up and leaves her daughters to fend for themselves. I was completely taken aback by this course of events. I was not surprised that they would leave Nathan by himself in the jungle, but for her to leave her daughters behind and only bring one of them home to safety was completely out of character as I saw it.
I felt the story kind of fell apart after that point because even though we saw the girls growing older and wiser (except for Rachel) I felt like there was no coherence with the beginning of the novel.
Would I recommend this book to a friend? Yes, but with some reservation.This is not a book for everyone. It is a very specific type of story and not everyone will like it. If you like the kind of book that makes you think about politics and the human condition you will like this book. If you like character driven stories about family life, you will find this book insanely frustrating and broken.