The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible follows the Price family as they journey into the unknown to be Evangelical Baptist missionaries in the Congo in the 1950's. Nathan Price, a strongwilled minister bent on saving every soul in Africa, lead his wife Orleanna and his four daughters, Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth-Mae, away from everything they knew and loved to a place where they had to relearn everything over again. Nathan is trying to force his will and his god and everything that he believes in onto the people of Kilanga, a tiny village in the middle of an unwelcoming group of colonies on the brink of both a democratic election and a communist revolution. The story is told from the point of view of the Price girls, who each take the worldly objects they think that they can't live without but would never work as part of their new lives among the African natives, witch doctors, and "false" idols. Each girl has a different personality and each take somethign different away from their experiences. Rachel, the oldest, was only concerned with her appearance and with how soon she could get back to her normal life as a highschooler. She was determined not to let her time in the Congo change her, and she didn't want it to change her life in any way. All she wanted to be was a normal teenager. Leah, one of the twins and second oldest, tried to embrace the congo. She changed the way she acted and thought and how she lived her life. She was determined t olearn the language and to be a part of the lives her father so desperately wanted to change yet would never be able to understand. Adah, the second twin and the smartest yet most handicapped and ignored of the sisters, was able to look at her family's life in the congo and she was able to to take positive and negative things away from the experpience. She didn't let the congo change the way she thought too much but she silently watched and listened to life around her and didn't object to the changes. Ruth-Mae, the baby of the family didn't know what to think. She was too young to undertand what her father was trying to do or why her entire family had to pick up their lives and move to a foreign planet. Orleanna, the mother, was the person who lost the most in the congo. Her devotion to her husband and his cause eventually turned her against him and all he stood for and it became her only wish to bring her family back to the way it was.
From this, I learned that it is very hard to force a religion onto people who already believe in something or people who don't understand the ideas of conversion or of monotheistic worship. Nathan Price wasn't willing to let the congo bend his will, be was instead determined to bend the congo and all of its people to do god's bidding. He never once stopped to think how his actions would affect his family or the people he was trying to save from themselves. From this book I learned that it is important to think about other people and how your actions will affect their lives before you act.
This book was realistic fiction but it was very real-seeming and very very dark. There were very important religious undertones but as somebody with no real religion I was still able to understand it. I would recommend this for people 14 and up, not that there is anything too explicit in the novel, but because the themes are so heavy and that it is a hard read to stick with because it is so dark and depressing that you want to put it down. In the end it is a book very much worht reading. The characters all offer very different views on the world and their lives and it was almost enlightening to read. Brilliant.