The Poisonwood Bible

By Barbara Kingsolver. Published in 1998.

On the back of my copy of The Poisonwood Bible is a quote from Jane Smiley’s review from the Washington Post Book World: “This awed reviewer hardly knows where to begin.” I love that line for its generosity and its humility and for the way it makes me feel better about not knowing where to begin myself.

But where can one begin with Kingsolver’s hugely ambitious novel? Spanning thirty years of tumult in the lives of a single unfortunate family, the multi-voiced narrative fearlessly tackles colonialism and patriarchy, culpability and absolution, the perversion of Christianity and the dark history of Africa, all with such artistry and urgency that I stayed up too late several nights in a row rather than set the book aside.