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Free Study Guide for The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver BookNotes

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What We Carried Out (Continued)


(Cluster 3: Leah and Anatole are married and have found a remnant of Anatole’s family. Adah finds a cure for her brain condition.)

Leah Price Ngemba: Bikoki Station, January 17, 1965


January 17th is the anniversary of Ruth May’s death. Leah chops a snake to pieces and rejects Anatole’s sympathy. On this one-day at least, their griefs are separate, hers the grief for her lost sister, his is the ache Congo’s lost independence.

Leah explains that Anatole had been released without formal charges three months after his capture. They met in Bikoki, an old rubber plantation settlement outside of Coquilhatville. There they had also found an aunt of Anatole’s, his mother’s youngest sister who had moved there years earlier to search for Anatole in the mines.

Anatole and Leah are married and have opened a school, but are forced to teach and speak carefully as the slightest hint of opposition to Mobutu could mean all their deaths as well as the undoing of their work. The Fowles visit them occasionally, as they too stayed on in the Congo, but their news is always bad. Nathan Price seems to have disappeared into the jungle and her old friend Pascal along with two other of Anatole’s students has been murdered.

Adah Price. Emory Hospital, Atlanta: Christmas 1968


A neurologist has befriended Adah and has studied the records regarding the injury to her brain. In his opinion, an injury occurring so early should have no lasting effects on mobility. He thinks that her limp and her ways of doing things backward are learned habits. He has her crawl rather than walk and ride in a wheel chair so her brain will "forget" that half of her body doesn’t work. The treatment is successful and Adah is soon able to walk without her "slant."

Her only regret is that she also loses her ability to see words and ideas backward and is no longer able to instantly turn whole sentences into palindromes.

Leah, Anatole and their little son Pascal come to Atlanta for a visit, but Anatole seems as out of place as the Price family was in the Congo. Although they do make additional visits, they soon realize that they can’t live a fulfilled life in the states.

Adah analyzes her family in terms of religion. She thinks that perhaps she needs one herself. Her mother has found one in the form of the civil rights movement and walks in the numerous marches sponsored by an area civil rights organization. In spite of her new commitment, however, Orleanna still suffers from self imposed guilt, still talks to Ruth May, asking forgiveness when no one is around.

Adah wakes in the middle of one night, compelled to know why her mother did not choose Leah to save from the Congo. Orleanna’s answer is simple-Adah is the youngest after Ruth May, and a "mother takes care of her children from the bottom up." Adah decides that the incident with the ants was thus a matter of position, rather than of love. It is something she can live with.


Leah and Adah are juxtaposed and found to be remarkably similar in spite of appearing to go in separate directions as teenagers. Leah has found her fulfillment and family in Anatole and his people and is spending her life in real service for the people. Adah rediscovers her mother and is finally able to forgive her for "abandoning" her when she realizes it was a sense that the youngest needed her mother the most. Adah finds a cure for her crippled half through the help of a neurologist friend while Leah finds a cure for "whiteness" through her boys and the acceptance of Anatole.

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Ruff, Karen DA. "TheBestNotes on The Poisonwood Bible". . 09 May 2017