Friday, February 12, 2016

Poisonwood Bible RAL - Week 2 Discussion

Uff-tah! What a week!

Has anyone enjoyed these two books? Sure, the writing is great but the story is a bitter pill to swallow.

During this week, Independence has come to the Congo and sickness has come to the Price household. Our eyes have been opened to see the motivation behind Nathan's piety and the veil has been lifted to show the class disparity in Congo's cities, as well as Axelrood's corruption. We have gone deeper into the superstitious faith of the Congolese people and we have touched on sacred rituals including body modification, scarification and mutilation that are still practiced, albeit illegally, today.

1. Does having more information about Nathan's past make you feel differently about him? About Orleanna?

2. Has your preference of character changed since week one's discussion?

3. What do you think Kingsolver is trying to accomplish by having the girls confuse their vocabulary and idioms so frequently?

4. What's the significance of Brother Fowles's visit?

5. List a few of your favorite quotes or lines from this section.

If you haven't, take a chance to go back and look at last week's discussion. I really enjoyed everyone's input.

Reading Schedule:

Feb 1-7: Genesis, Revelation
Feb 8-14: Judges, Bel and the Serpent
Feb 15-21: Exodus, Song of the Three Children
Feb 22-20: The Eyes in the Trees


  1. This book is a painful read. As the first responder, I look forward to reading others' thoughts and merging them with my impressions of these chapters.

    1. Nathan is a loathsome character. Having more information allows some insight into why his personality changed but certainly does not give us enough of a reason for the extremeness of his behaviour. He seems to be both a narcissist and a psychopath, both are character traits that I wonder would most likely have exposed themselves eventually anyway?

    2. I do still have a particular fondness for Oreleanna, and my heart breaks for her - over and over. Leah is taking a strong second place in my list of favourites as well as Anatole, who seems to be a bridge between the old traditions and customs and the new world that the others are struggling to understand or want to understand.

    3. The confused vocabulary and idioms simply seems a way for Kingsolver to give each girl more personality? I'm not too sure what other purpose much of it would serve (except for giving me the odd giggle over Rachel confusing terms)

    4. Brother Fowles' visit to me signifies the real shift in the family's attitude (and treatment) towards Nathan. It's as if they were given a vision of what their life could have been like and instead are stuck in a the horrific life with a man who is so supremely ignorant of what the people of the Congo truly need (or don't need, as it were...)

    5. How to choose only a few? One that struck home was when Leah said, "Our mother used to have mystery under her skin, and we paid not the slightest attention." These children can see their own mother being brought to her knees by their father and didn't know what they were losing until it was gone. :sob:
    I will also admit that I had NEVER thought of our election process the way that the Congolese did, and the story from Tata Ndu "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."
    I would say that everything that happens next would be the pot spilling into the fire...

    1. I wonder if the terms was a way to convey "dumb-whiteness." I'm not sure about it either. I like what you said about Brother Fowles' visit.

  2. Did I drive everyone away?? LOL!

  3. 1. It does make me understand Nathan better. It seems to me that he is operating under a ton of guilt and attempting to repay his "debt of cowardice." He is a very complex character. Although he wasn't healthy before the war, the experiences he had in the war were a trigger for pre-existing mental health problems that were only exacerbated further by his theology of a punishing, rule-requiring God. How is he missing the grace that Jesus exchanges our disobedience for His perfect obedience? When you have law without grace, perfectionism must rule the day. Yikes, it's awful. Oh Orleanna... pity and sorrow upon sorrow. Probably even before physical abuse there was spiritual abuse and that is perhaps even more damaging in my opinion; she has been broken but I love that she really is strong inside.
    2. Leah and Orleanna are my favorites through these sections. I feel a pang of grief whenever I think of Adah during the fire ants; my heart can hardly enter into that dynamic between her and Orleanna.
    3. I hadn't noticed too much word confusion besides Rachel (which I attribute to her voice as a character) so I'll have to look more for that. I would venture to guess that they have entered a time of confusion where truths are not what they seemed to be and their whole life is thrown into chaos. Who are they now? No longer Americans blind and untouched by suffering but not Congolese either.

    4. I liked what Caroline said and agree but hadn't had words to put it that way. I think it's true especially for Orleanna and Leah that they began to think of Nathan and life there differently. It was like a heavy sigh while the Fowles' visited, not a relief exactly because I knew things were only going to keep getting worse. I loved the confrontation with Nathan and how Brother Fowles wouldn't back down when all the other characters we have in the story walk on eggshells around him. Damn his unpredictability. I feel scared of him and he's just a character in a book! Fowles' hands were probably tied to being a true help to the ladies of the family, and that felt oppressive to me. I understand that. Sigh. Hard.
    5. I underlined this: "[What if] the world of white men had never touched the Congo at all? Oh, it's a fine and useless enterprise, trying to fix destiny. That trail leads straight back to the time before we ever lived, and into that deep well it's easy to cast curses like stones on our ancestors But that's nothing more than cursing ourselves and that made us."
    This stood out to me in a way that touches my life. Here I am living among the grandchildren of people who were removed from their homes, forced into boarding schools with changed names and punishment for speaking their Native tongue, families who have been devastated as a result of the same basic invasion for the same basic reasons as I am reading happened in Africa. There's nothing I can do to change the past but as soon as I stop thinking like an individualistic American for a second I realize I am a part of the "clan" that committed these atrocities, and that mindset takes a long time to change in a culture so that way of thinking in terms of a tribe or group still holds strong. Although we can't undo the damage, we can build new bridges, and let the old broken ones burn and hope for truth and beauty and goodness. Sadly, Nathan hasn't done that. But his daughters and wife - maybe they have begun some small construction without even realizing it.

    I am hoping this week is a little less... intense. It probably won't be. Whew. Getting ready to dive back in.

    1. I love what you said about feeling scared of Nathan and he is imaginary! I think we realize this world is full of so many real and broken Nathans that is is hard to shake it off.
      I wondered and wondered about why Kingsolver included the scene with the fire ants. I wish I could be in the head of Orleana and thought perhaps that Adah is more of a victim of her own doubt rather than being truly "abandoned." While the whole situation wasn't good, I wonder if Orleana had genuine confidence in Adah to make it through and a subconscious feeling that Adah needed the affirmation of success that could only come in a very unplanned situation. Thoughts?