The Poisonwood Bible: “Tata Jesus is bängala!”

I couldn’t sleep the other night so I reached out my hand and grabbed The Poisonwood Bible. It’s so familiar, so loved, that I reckoned I’d be fine to read a couple of chapters and not have to see it through. But it pulled me back in and sure enough I was ensnared yet again by its un-put-down-able narrative.

Given my attachment to the book, it surprised me to hear from a couple of friends that they didn’t really like it. Too close to the bone, they said.

Perhaps that’s why I keep going back to it? Drawn into the depths of the story, I hear the women’s voices articulate so many of the questions I often ponder. About culture, home, contextualisation, faith, hope, poverty, power, determination, life, death, loss, grief, justice, God, displacement, guilt, forgiveness, time, love, family… What’s not to love about it?

My old battered copy rests on my knee, reminiscent of a well-thumbed Bible whose worn pages point to the searching devotion of its reader. It’s not as if the Bible is a stranger to all those themes. All things considered, I am a bit taken aback that it was the novel I reached for first.


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