- Michele Brown
This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids. You can browse the book matches here.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: "The Poisonwood Bible is a story 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 all 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. This tale of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction, over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa, is set against history's most dramatic political parables."
If you liked The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, you may also like these selections:
I would recommend that you read all of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels. They all have interesting stories that illuminate relationships within families, relationships between individuals and the very important relationship we all have with our environment.
The antelope wife: a novel by Louise Erdrich
"Family stories repeat themselves in patterns and waves, generation to generation, across blood and time." Erdrich embroiders this theme in a sensuous novel that brings her back to the material she knows best, the emotionally dislocated lives of Native Americans who try to adhere to the tribal ways while yielding to the lure of the general culture. In a beautifully articulated tale of intertwined relationships among succeeding generations, she tells the story of the Roy and the Shawano families and their "colliding histories and destinies." (Publishers Weekly)
At Play in the Fields of the Lord by Peter Matthiessen
Set in the South American jungle, this thriller follows the clash between two misplaced gringos--one who has come to convert the Indians to Christianity, and one who has been hired to kill them.
Cry, the beloved country by Alan Paton
Cry, the Beloved Country is a beautifully told and profoundly compassionate story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set in the troubled and changing South Africa of the 1940s. The book is written with such keen empathy and understanding that to read it is to share fully in the gravity of the characters' situations. It both touches your heart deeply and inspires a renewed faith in the dignity of mankind. Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic tale, passionately African, timeless and universal, and beyond all, selfless. (catalog summary)
English Passengers by Matthew Kneale
This historical novel sets three groups in conflict: Rum smugglers from the Isle of Man whose confiscated ship is sold to two English eccentrics; the two English passengers are a clergyman who believes Tasmania is the original Garden of Eden and his traveling partner who has sinister theories about the races of mankind. The third group of people is the Tasmanians whose story is told by the aboriginal Peevey.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
I always find it rewarding to revisit the classic. I’m always surprised at what a short novel this story of an Englishman traveling down the Congo (although the river really isn’t named) and his encounter with Kurtz, the westerner who has been undone by life in this different culture.
Fordlandia by Eduardo Sguiglia
This brooding novel by an Argentinean writer is based on the very real project Fordlandia that Henry Ford dreamed up in 1929. It was a vast tract of land about 500 miles from the mouth of the Amazon. Ford’s goal was to produce cheap rubber for his automobile factories. The project was an unworkable plan, poorly executed that ended very badly. The novel tells the story from the point of view of an Argentinean personnel manager for the Ford project.
Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish by Richard Flanagan
This historical novel recounts in harrowing detail the rise and fall of the penal colony on Sarah Island. It’s a story within a story. A contemporary Tasmanian creator of fake antiques finds a manuscript of a convict who gets in the good graces of the Sarah Island surgeon by painting scientific illustrations of the native fish.
King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild
If you are interested in reading a nonfiction book about colonial Congo this would be an excellent choice. The factual details of the devastation of African peoples caused by the western world’s search for more and more wild rubber are absolutely horrific. The terrible colonial exploitation of the Congo was the basis for Conrad’s novel.
The Mosquito Coast : a novel by Paul Theroux
An eccentric American inventor moves his family to the jungles of Central America in hopes of finding a better life.
(Novelist) There his tortured, quixotic genius keeps them alive, his hoarse tirades harrying them through a diseased and dirty Eden towards unimaginable darkness and terror. (from the publisher)
The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason.
In 1886 a shy, middle-aged piano tuner named Edgar Drake receives an unusual commission from the British War Office: to travel to the remote jungles of northeast Burma and there repair a rare piano belonging to an eccentric army surgeon who has proven mysteriously indispensable to the imperial design. Drake’s journey through Burma enmeshes him in colonial intrigue and an alien culture he finds compelling.
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
This powerful novel is set in the state of Tabasco in Mexico during the 1930s, a time when the Mexican government strove to suppress the Catholic Church. The persecution was especially severe in the province of Tabasco, where the anti-clerical governor Tomás Garrido Canabal succeeded in closing all the churches in the state; forcing the priests to marry and give up their gowns. The main character is a priest with many sins of his own who refuses to renounce his vows and hide from the police lieutenant who is trying to track him down.
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Spanning 40 years and evoking both the sultry South Carolina lowcountry and the glamour of New York City , this is the story of a destructive family relationship, a violent father, and secrets which yet haunt the now grown children. Readers..."will be swept along by Conroy's felicitous, often poetic prose, his ironic comments on the nature of man and society, his passion for the marshland country of the South and his skill with narrative." (Publishers Weekly)
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles.
This classic novel explores the ways in which three American travelers misinterpret the people and culture of North Africa and how this lack of perception destroys them. The book was first published in 1949, but is quite relevant today.
Swimming in the Congo by Margaret Meyers
In this enjoyable first novel Grace Berggren, the daughter of an agricultural missionary, lives with her parents and sister in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire), where she experiences the curious blend of European Protestantism and African native beliefs. As a seven-year-old, Grace searches the jungle behind her house, hoping to sneak up on the elusive equator her father is always talking about. On the way to boarding school she confronts racism in its uncensored state. When her father contracts jungle fever, Grace barters for a fetish with which she can protect him. The author's flowing prose vividly presents the conflicts and struggles of a complex childhood against an exotic tropical backdrop. The book is thought-provoking and delightful. (Library Journal,Joanna M. Burkhardt)
A thousand acres by Jane Smiley
[A} rich, breathtakingly dramatic novel of an American family whose wealth cannot stay the hand of tragedy. It is the intense, compelling story of a father and his daughters, of sisters, of wives and husbands, and of the human cost of a lifetime spent trying to subdue the land and the passions it stirs. (Publishers Weekly) Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award.
The ventriloquist's tale by Pauline Melville
Pauline Melville conjures up vivid pictures both of savanna and forest and of city life in South America where love is often trumped by disaster. Unforgettable characters illuminate theme and plot: Sonny, the strange, beautiful and isolate son of Beatrice and Danny, the brother and sister who have a passionate affair at the time of the solar eclipse in 1919; Father Napier, the sandy-haired evangelist whom the Indians perceive as a giant grasshopper; Chofy McKinnon the modern Indian, torn between savanna life and urban future. This is a novel that embraces nearly a century, large in scope but intimate as a whisper, where laughter is never far from the scene of tragedy; a parable of miscegenation and racial elusiveness, of nature defying culture, magic confronting rationalism and of the eternally rebellious nature of love. (catalog summary)
We were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
Everyone knows the Mulvaneys: Dad the successful businessman, Mike the football star, Marianne the cheerleader, Patrick the brain, Judd the runt, and Mom dedicated to running the family. But after what sometime narrator Judd calls the events of Valentine's Day 1976, this ideal family falls apart and is not reunited until 1993. Oates's...26th novel explores this disintegration with an eye to the nature of changing relationships and recovering from the fractures that occur. Through vivid imagery of a calm upstate New York landscape that any moment can be transformed by a blinding blizzard into a near-death experience, Oates demonstrates how faith and hope can help us endure. At another level, the process of becoming the Mulvaneys again investigates the philosophical and spiritual aspects of a family's survival and restoration. (Library Journal, Joshua Cohen)
A yellow raft in blue water by Michael Dorris
A powerful novel of three generations of American Indian women, each seeking her own identity while forever cognizant of family responsibilities, loyalty, and love. Rayona, half-Indian half-black daughter of Christine, reacts to feelings of rejection and abandonment by running away, not knowing that her mother had acted in a similar fashion some 15 years before. But family ties draw Rayona home to the Montana reservationas they drew Christine, and as they had drawn Ida many years earlier. As the three recount their lives, often repeating incidents but adding new perspectives, a total picture emerges. The result is a beautifully passionate first novel...(Library Journal, Thomas L. Kilpatrick)
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