Quotes from the Poisonwood Bible

I finally got around to reading this amazing work by Barbara Kingsolver, and I regret that I put it off because this is going to be one of those books to which I will return over and over. But whenever I’m reading a book, I’m really enjoying, I write down passages from it that I find funny, sad or strange and that’s what I’m sharing right now. I will write a more personal essay later, but for now I just want to share what I found fascinating in her book:


Not a television set in this whole blessed country. Radios, maybe one per hundred thousand residents. No telephones. Newspapers as scarce as hen’s teeth, and a literacy rate made to match. They get their evening news by listening to their neighbor’s drums.

Frank this is not a nation, it’s the Tower of Babel.

The gods you do not pay are the ones that can curse you the best.

It is a dangerous thing, I now understand, to make mistakes with nommo in the Congo. If you assign the wrong names to things, you could make a chicken speak like a man. Make a machete rise up and dance.

By loaning the Congo more than a billion for the power line of Inga Shaba, the World Bank insured a permanent debt to be paid in cobalts and diamonds from now till the end of times.

Recently it has been decided, grudgingly, that dark skin or lameness may not be entirely one’s fault, but one still ought to show the good manners to act ashamed.

The tropics will intoxicate you with the sweetness of frangipani flowers and lay you down with the sting of a viper, with hardly room to breathe in between.

A wife is the earth itself changing hands, bearing scars.

Every small effort at hygiene was magnified by hours of labor spent procuring the simplest elements water, heat.

They speak a language that burgles and rains from their mouths like water through a pipe. And from day one, I coveted it bitterly. I tried to invent or imagine such a stout, snappy phrase. “Bukabuka” I imagined myself shouting r from a spaceship movie I had seen once “klatu barada nikto!”

While the little boys ran around pretending to shoot at each other and fall dead on the road, it appeared that little girls were running the country.

It struck me what a wide world of there was between our sort of games “Mother May I?” “Hide and Seek” and his “Find Food,” “Recognize Poisonwood” “Build a House”

I was glad nobody wanted to cut off my hands. Because Jesus made me white, I reckon they wouldn’t.

He often says he views himself as the captain of a sinking mess of female minds.

Why, Nathan, here they have to use their bodies like we use things at home. Like your clothes or your garden tools or something.

Elapsed, or esteemed, all Ade meets Erodes pale.

Now the bitterness of quinine and sweetness of kissing are two tastes perfectly linked on my soft palate.

Betrayal is a friend I have known a long time, a two faced goddess looking forward and back with a clear, earnest suspicion of good fortune.

A Congolese life is like the useless Congolese bill, which you can pile by the fistful or the bucketful into a merchant’s hand, and still not purchase a single banana.

With a dark scarf over her hair and the sleeves of her stained white blouse rolled up, she did her work as deliberately as the sun or moon, a heavenly body tracking its course through the house.


One thought on “Quotes from the Poisonwood Bible

  1. I take it you recommend the book? I have known a number of people who have read it and it has been in the back of my mind for awhile. These quotes are certainly intriguing.

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