The Poisonwood Bible

19 of 34
The Poisonwood Bible
560 pages; Harper

Because Barbara Kingsolver has a sneaky way of making us more empathic.

The Price family of Bethlehem, Georgia, arrives in Kilanga, Congo in 1959 as Baptist missionaries. The patriarch, Reverend Price, is a silver-tongued tent revival preacher who has dragged his wife and four daughters to this squalid African outpost for the exalted purpose of bringing salvation to the natives. Unyielding in his faith, and blind to the surrounding realities of the Congolese culture, the reverend refuses to acknowledge the complete and utter failure of this enterprise. The women of the family, however, have their own individual perspectives. As the five narrators of the novel, they observe and comment the clash of cultures, the struggle to overcome stifling conventions, and the preservation of heritage—each with an utterly unique, convincing voice that draws you deeper into the story of a family's unraveling.

Featured in Oprah's Book Club in June 2000.