Monday, May 6, 2013


I've only borrowed a few books from my office lending library over the years yeah, that's right. we have a small lending library in my office As part of that endeavor, I put together some bookmarks so I could keep track of the books that I loaned and borrowed from said library. I talked about these homemade markers just a few months ago, but the reason I bring it up here is that I found one of my bookmarks in the copy of The Poisonwood Bible I just read, which informed me that I borrowed this book from my office lending library on April 22, 2008. Yep, just over 5 years ago.

I'm not sure why I let this book sit on my shelf for 5+ years before reading it, especially now that I've read it, but I can guess. One, I'm not a big fan of reading the hot books of the day. I get the feeling that hot books are driven more by hype than substance. Which leads me my second guess: this book was chosen for the Oprah book club. See the little tag up there on the cover? I've never seen the Oprah book club on TV--which is where I assume it is, or was if its canceled like the rest of Oprah on television--but I can imagine that its based on the idea that you can get a million people to feel like they are in a private, exclusive club, with Oprah as the president, talking about reading books. Except that nobody talks about books except Oprah, and the people she brings on her book club show. I've  read or heard author's talking about how this crummy idea has impacted book sales for a few chosen individuals, and completely skewed sales for all kinds of other (read: left out) writers for years. Just sounds like a bad idea, poorly executed.*

The Poisonwood Bible is, however, a very good book despite my caterwauling. Barbara Kingsolver has taken an epic journey by five amazing women and girls, through time and vast culture differences, and has broken it down to its parts as told by each of them, some of them from the time they were very young. A multiple point-of-view narrative can be tricky to read, and I'm sure tricky to write, but this one flows out beautifully, with each of these women and girls telling their story in their own voice. And as they grow together and move through time, we can see their perspectives changing, and even how they influence one another over time.

The Poisonwood Bible is a story of family, growth, life, death, and re-birth. Its a story of Africa, America, and a story of their intertwined and often uncomfortable relationships; relationships we can see reflected in these characters, their cultures, and environments.

The reality of Africa is more nuanced, beautiful, sad, complex, and terrifying than I imagined, or can be told in a novel, but Kingsolver did a good job of lifting the veil a little on this for me. The other take away message: this could very easily been filed under chick-lit, and I don't know if I missed that during the hype stage of this book, or I've just forgotten, but what I will say is that it certainly didn't read that way. I was enthralled with the journey these women and girls had gone on, and how they dealt with the things they encountered, not least of which was their treatment by the men in their lives and in society.

Nicely Done.

Read this book.

* This is apparently called the "Oprah Effect." That's a damn shame.

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