The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel
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The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.
in his hands, then replace it above the high dome of his forehead. No one breathed. “White men tell us: Vote, bantu! They tell us: You do not all have to agree, ce n’est pas nécessaire! If two men vote yes and one says no, the matter is finished. Á bu, even a child can see how that will end. It takes three stones in the fire to hold up the pot. Take one away, leave the other two, and what? The pot will spill into the fire.” We all understood Tata Ndu’s parable. His glasses and tall hat did not
at all, he must think of me as a mother. Scraping fiercely for food and shelter, mad entirely for love, by definition. My boys all cry, “Sala mbote!” as they run out the door, away from my shelter and advice but never escaping my love. Pascal has gone farthest—for two years he’s been in Luanda, where he studies petroleum engineering and, I sincerely believe, chases girls. He reminds me so much of his namesake, my old friend, with similar wide-set eyes and the same cheerful question breaking like
for our return, so I beckoned to Leah. She had to cross over a row of produce to get to me. Without a thought, as the twin whose legs never failed her, she shifted the basket to her left hip and took a giant step over a pyramid of oranges. I stretched out my hand to her. Right there as she reached for it, though, she got stuck somehow, mid-straddle over the oranges, unable to bring the other foot over. Phhffff! The woman squatting beside the oranges leaped up hissing, slicing her hands like
I was to focus on a single, big project: a cross-stitch tablecloth. It’s nothing but a thousand tiny x’s to be made up in different colors of thread. The tablecloth has the pattern stamped straight on the linen in washable ink, like a paint-by-numbers picture. A monkey could do it, if he got bored enough. Certainly no talent is required for cross-stitch. The hopeful part, I guess, is that after you’re done with it all, you’ll find someone who’d want to marry you. Personally I can’t see it as
both hands, as is the custom here, and put them away without a word. Nelson, as usual, was the one who finally took pity upon our benighted stupidity and told us what was up: kukwela. Tata Ndu wanted a wife. “A wife,” Mother said, staring at Nelson in the kitchen house exactly as I had seen her stare at the cobra that once turned up in there. I wondered whether she might actually grab a stick and whack Nelson behind the head, as she’d done to the snake. “Yes, Mama Price,” he said tiredly,