So the book club that I went to in Hungary read The Poisonwood Bible in December. I know I’m a little behind because they discussed in early December. But I’m trying to keep up with them and I don’t need to keep up with them. I looked at it and debated if I really wanted to read that or the one actual Christmas book I have because it was like 2 days before Christmas. It was a western and I was like meh. So I did read this book. I was hesitant because I haven’t dealt with more adult books great lately. But I’m glad I read it. If you don’t know about this book, it’s about a missionary family that goes to Africa in the late 1950’s. Okay, if you didn’t know, I worked with a Christian non-profit and taught English to teenagers in Budapest. So basically, at the core, a missionary. At the beginning of the book it says (from the mother’s point of view), ‘as if we were both party to relations with a failed outcome. Or say I was afflicted with Africa like a bout of a rare disease, from which I have not managed a full recovery.’ (page 9) Do I ever relate to that. I feel like I failed in Hungary. There was a failed outcome, on different levels. Not just my failure but others as well. I also think that I will never recover from Hungary because of my love of the country and its people. I even crave Hungarian wine during the holidays. True story.
I liked how the kids talked like kids in the late 1950’s. But with that said, I still think that they were a little idealized. They annoyed each other and each girl had a personality thing, yes but it seemed clear cut at the beginning. And how old are they? For the first section of the book, I was like oh, they’re little girls like under 10 and then in the second section one of the girls says they’re 15. What? I was reading this book all wrong before then. But I got it under control.
I appreciate the way they came into the Congo. They talked about the smells and what they were seeing. I appreciate that. Granted I went to Hungary in 2014 and not to the Congo in 1959, so there is difference. Then there was like an impromptu service and they stressed some words which made it easier to hear them talking and hear the stereotypical service. I like that they put cultural differences in there and they talk about how they deal with the locals. That’s a major part of going over to a foreign country and it isn’t easy.
I did wonder why they didn’t do this with the father’s point of view. It would have been interesting. I feel like he was the radical version of missionaries. But I think that’s a different book completely. I did appreciate every person’s point of view. Especially the mother’s. I don’t know why. I think it was because she seemed not the missionary’s wife. She seemed so against being there. I liked that the girls had such different personalities. It gave the book dimension about the different attitudes about mission families. I could talk a lot about the different dimensions and attitudes in missions.
Poisonwood came in very early in the book and was a common theme in the book. But I shouldn’t be surprised by that. I felt it was a little convenient that they had been in the Bethlehem area. It just seemed like that’s where they should have been from. Politics were a major thing in this book. But you can’t be a missionary or move into a different country and not pick up politics. It’s utterly impossible. I still have major opinions about Hungarian politics. It’s not surprising that these girls would be involved in politics or live internationally as adults.
Quotes I appreciated/liked. “Silences has many advantages.” Page 34. “He just grants us a long enough life to punish ourselves.” Page 327. “Africa has a thousand ways to get under your skin.” Page 456. These aren’t all of them that I liked. Just some of them.
This book was wonderful. Written pretty well. Though I wondered how much the author spent in the mind of missionary kids at some points. Sometimes the kids were too eloquent.
Hypothetically, the next book I’m going to read is The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. It’s the book club’s January read. We’ll see how it goes.