Monday, June 5, 2017
The Poisonwood Bible
Tata Jesus is bangala!
Yes, indeed, he is.
The Poisonwood Bible was a extraordinary journey through a country I have come to know and love. Depicting the story of a missionary family set out to baptize the children of the Congo, they each fail in their unique way to touch what makes that place so agonizingly memorable.
As one of the scars of my forebears I seem to have leeched onto this African region for all its worth, trying to figure out how life must have been in the turmoil of Western Capitalism. Be it non-fiction, or romanticized gothic literature or in this case the emotional upheaval of 5 women being brought to this nation against their will.
The story is told from five different perspectives, those of Reverend Nathaniel's wife and his 4 daughters. Each one of them has a specific way in which to describe their situation, ranging from despair, a boyish sense of adventure, a scientific approach and lethargy.
Orleanna, the Reverend's wife, the one we hear the less, but somehow her words pack the most punch. Quite an enigma at first, as her daughters don't seem to respect her much, but still protect her from their fathers wrath, she changes into a powerful, yet guilt ridden woman. She only speaks at the beginning of each chapters, carefully mapping this book with the many tendrils of the Congo.
Rachel Price, the eldest daughter and the most vain. She's the one that never grows up and holds onto the American Way of Life she knows and loves. With not having a kindred spirit among the red-dust-dwellers, she spits out her hate and contempt for the godforsaken land her father brought her to. Growing up she stubbornly holds onto the American Ideal and makes a life for herself in just such a way, proving herself to be quite a business woman.
Leah Price, half of a twin, a tomboy who idolizes her father until she sees her surroundings for what they are. Mostly because she sees that her father isn't providing the safety the other less civilized families are having, she turns away from him, into the arms of a gentle Congolese man, Anatole.
Adah Price, the other half of the twin, born with half a brain, she's the most resigned of them all. Emotionally cut off, fleeing a world where she is seen as less than anyone else, her reveries mainly take place inside her own head. She makes up a world where logic is insane and the queer rule. Her handicap puts her in a peculiar situation traversing the flood-swept plains of Kingala, where people more hurt still fight day to day to provide for themselves and their family. She learns to be whole again, but loses a significant part of herself by doing so.
Lastly, Ruth May Price, the youngest who has her say. She doesn't see the hardships, doesn't comprehend the sorrow and the loss of everything dear to her mother and sisters. As young children do, she make do with what she has and creates her own perfect childhood on the footsteps of disaster.
Congolese history reveals itself in these stories, in a way you don't realize they have never lived and known the hardships of living in the Congo. Spread over many years, it tells a story of bravery, ignorance, hardships, bad luck, but most of all willpower, a human perseverance where sanity has already left.