The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible (1998) (recently voted Britain’s favourite readers group book), by Barbara Kingsolver ( and, is a novel about a missionary family, the Prices, who in 1959 move from the U.S. state of Georgia to the village of Kilanga in the Belgian Congo, close to the Kwilu River. (The nearest town, an impossibly long journey away, is Bulungu.)

The Prices’ story is narrated in turns by the five women of the family: Orleanna, the long-suffering wife of fiercely evangelical Baptist missionary Nathan Price, and their four daughters: Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May. As the Congolese villagers are seen through the eyes of the growing daughters, the view changes. At first, they appear as ridiculous savages. But as the girls mature, the villagers become fully fleshed-out human beings, immersed in a complex and sophisticated culture. Nathan’s lack of responsiveness to this culture wears out his family’s welcome, but he refuses to leave. Only after a series of misfortunes—culminating in the death of Ruth May—do the women leave Nathan Price to his folly.

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640 pages in Faber & Faber

First published 1998

ISBN 978-0571298846

Barbara Kingsolver

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