The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel (Paperback)

The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel By Barbara Kingsolver Cover Image

The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel (Paperback)

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A fascinating tale of a family thrown into stressful circumstances, seen variously through the eyes of 5 women - a mother and her 4 daughters. Each in her turn tells the story of their life together, as the family of a missionary in the Congo in the late 1950's. Deeply moving. 

— Lee

New York Times Bestseller • Pulitzer Prize Finalist • An Oprah's Book Club Selection

“Powerful . . . [Kingsolver] has with infinitely steady hands worked the prickly threads of religion, politics, race, sin and redemption into a thing of terrible beauty.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

The Poisonwood Bible, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, established Barbara Kingsolver as one of the most thoughtful and daring of modern writers. Taking its place alongside the classic works of postcolonial literature, it is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in Africa.

The story is 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.

The novel is set against one of the most dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo's fight for independence from Belgium, the murder of its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy. Against this backdrop, Orleanna Price reconstructs the story of her evangelist husband's part in the Western assault on Africa, a tale indelibly darkened by her own losses and unanswerable questions about her own culpability. Also narrating the story, by turns, are her four daughters—the teenaged Rachel; adolescent twins Leah and Adah; and Ruth May, a prescient five-year-old. These sharply observant girls, who arrive in the Congo with racial preconceptions forged in 1950s Georgia, will be marked in surprisingly different ways by their father's intractable mission, and by Africa itself. Ultimately each must strike her own separate path to salvation. Their passionately intertwined stories become a compelling exploration of moral risk and personal responsibility.

Barbara Kingsolver was born in 1955 and grew up in rural Kentucky. She earned degrees in biology from DePauw University and the University of Arizona, and has worked as a freelance writer and author since 1985. At various times she has lived in England, France, and the Canary Islands, and has worked in Europe, Africa, Asia, Mexico, and South America. She spent two decades in Tucson, Arizona, before moving to southwestern Virginia where she currently resides.


Her books, in order of publication, are: The Bean Trees (1988), Homeland (1989), Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike (1989), Animal Dreams (1990), Another America (1992), Pigs in Heaven (1993), High Tide in Tucson (1995), The Poisonwood Bible (1998), Prodigal Summer (2000), Small Wonder (2002), Last Stand: America’s Virgin Lands, with photographer Annie Griffiths (2002), Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (2007), The Lacuna (2009), Flight Behavior (2012), Unsheltered (2018), How To Fly (In 10,000 Easy Lessons) (2020), Demon Copperhead (2022), and coauthored with Lily Kingsolver, Coyote's Wild Home (2023). She served as editor for Best American Short Stories 2001. 


Kingsolver was named one the most important writers of the 20th Century by Writers Digest, and in 2023 won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel Demon Copperhead. In 2000 she received the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages and have been adopted into the core curriculum in high schools and colleges throughout the nation. Critical acclaim for her work includes multiple awards from the American Booksellers Association and the American Library Association, a James Beard award, two-time Oprah Book Club selection, and the national book award of South Africa, among others. She was awarded Britain's prestigious Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) for both Demon Copperhead and The Lacuna, making Kingsolver the first author in the history of the prize to win it twice. In 2011, Kingsolver was awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


She has two daughters, Camille (born in 1987) and Lily (1996). She and her husband, Steven Hopp, live on a farm in southern Appalachia where they raise an extensive vegetable garden and Icelandic sheep. 

“There are few ambitious, successful and beautiful novels. Lucky for us, we have one now, in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible . . . this awed reviewer hardly knows where to begin.” — Jane Smiley, Washington Post Book World

“Fully realized, richly embroidered, triumphant.” — Newsweek

“Kingsolver’s powerful new book is actually an old-fashioned 19th-century novel, a Hawthornian tale of sin and redemption and the ‘dark necessity’ of history.” — Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

“A powerful new epic . . . She has with infinitely steady hands worked the prickly threads of religion, politics, race, sin and redemption into a thing of terrible beauty.” — Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Powerful . . . Kingsolver is a gifted magician of words.” — Time

“Beautifully written . . . Kingsolver’s tale of domestic tragedy is more than just a well-told yarn . . . Played out against the bloody backdrop of political struggles in Congo that continue to this day, it is also particularly timely.” — People

“Tragic, and remarkable. . . . A novel that blends outlandish experience with Old Testament rhythms of prophecy and doom.” — USA Today

“The book’s sheer enjoyability is given depth by Kingsolver’s insight and compassion for Congo, including its people, and their language and sayings.” — Boston Globe

“Compelling, lyrical and utterly believable.” — Chicago Tribune