Frederick W. Norris
Professor Emeritus of World Christianity
Emmanuel School of Religion
Kingsolver's intriguing tale attempts to depict a "genuine" Congo. She has fol lowed the political circumstances carefully and provides a bibliography that indicates her investigation of significant books. Indeed her novel is enhanced by her grasp of those historical conditions. United States' foreign policy of Anti Communism destroyed chances for negotiations with indigenous movements. It got in the way of African development including noncommunist efforts. The novel itself is a gem, written by a master who has captivated readers before but never quite as well. The fractured missionary family is based on a dysfunction al marriage that reflects the psychological difficulties of the husband and to a lesser extent the wife. Sadly some of his dangerous traits grate on his wife until she has had enough. The story deftly depicts how religion, in this case a type of fundamentalist Christianity, can make everything worse. The children have open eyes for Africa;, the mother sees much. The father looks on Africa with jaundiced eyes. The narrative has a series of flaws that indicate how her research into the Congo was superficial in terms of religion. The bibliography in that area is sparse. Her treatment of Christian or native beliefs and practices lack the sharpness of the novel's political insights. That brings its own tragedy. Kingsolver has strong religious views learned within the regions where she lived and found deeply within her own family and her education. She tells a few haunting stories of the witch doctor and the people who accept his leadership, yet there is little, either of Christianity or of indigenous religion.
VOLUME 22, No. 2