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Free Study Guide for The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver BookNotes

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BOOK SIX: Song of the Three Children


Rachel Price


Rachel operates the Equatorial as a world of her own where she calls all the shots. Having once had a severe venereal disease contracted from Axelroot, she has never been able to have children, a condition she occasionally regrets. She has no intention of ever trying to move back to the States as she believes that to acknowledge her experiences would prevent her from ever fitting in as an American socialite. Besides, the idea of her expensive belongings being scattered all over Africa is more than she can bear. She considers herself the type of person who never looks back.

Leah Price: Sanza Pomba, Angola


Leah and her family have been in Angola for ten years where they are able to grow a variety of crops and raise pigs in a grove of palm oil trees. She has abandoned any pretext of Christian religion and sees that in time, even whiteness is erased. They work with a steady trickle of people who migrate into the country and settle on the cooperative land. One of her most daunting challenges is getting women who have spent their lives on the move to understand the value of planting things that will take months or even years to bear fruit.

Adah Price: Atlanta


Adah has left the medical profession because she is not comfortable with the Hippocratic oath. She is not at all sure that physicians have the right or the responsibility to cure every defect and guarantee every child the experience of old age. Good intentions of the modern world have resulted in overpopulation, deforestation, and death by famine and war. She calls herself a witch doctor because she has learned the African concepts of balance, life and death, cleansing and wholeness. Adah spends her life studying the history and behavior of viruses. She visits her mother once a month, but they usually sit in silence on Orleanna’s porch.

Although she has had ample opportunity, Adah never married. With each new potential mate, she would imagine herself amid the sea of ants and ask herself whether the man would have rescued her, the cripple, or one of the more perfect siblings. None of the men measure up, and she can’t accept a relationship with anyone who would not have wanted her when she was crippled.


The section summarizes each girl’s life. The one thing they share in the end is the abandonment of their father’s religion, perhaps because he never exhibited Christianity in a way that made it meaningful to their lives. Rachel says that she doesn’t look back, but in even telling her story and in the resignation to the life she has built, it is clear that she does look back. She simply closes her mind to anything that would pull her down. Adah and Leah, in spite of the differences in their locations, both accept the traditions of the Congo and live more aligned with African custom than with those they were born to. Adah’s evaluation of men is probably too harsh, but comes from the experience of having been once abandoned. She is at least content, although success and fulfillment may be debatable concepts. Leah is the one who has found lasting happiness. Anatole would probably say it is because she is "béene," truth to herself as well as to others.

BOOK SEVEN: The Eyes in the Trees

The novel concludes in the voice of Ruth may, simultaneously her own childish spirit, the all knowing green mamba snake and the soul of Africa. She is "muntu," an African word that encompasses all being, both living and dead, the equivalent of the European "all-soul." She is able to see their entire history at once: "being dead is not worse than being alive. It is different, ... the view is larger." She sees the death of Mobutu and the wordless celebration of the Congo as the murdered land begins to live again.

Ruth May urges her aging mother to accept forgiveness and shed the weight of her baby’s death, a child who lives as a part of Africa itself.


Ruth May has at last answered her mother who has begun each new book with further explanation of the things that happened to them. Her response is not particularly compassionate, but is not cold either. It is simply detached, implying that her mother must forgive herself in order to find relief. The voice is remarkably nonchalant, as if it is perfectly normal for the spirit of the forest to speak if it chooses. It is a reflection of the African and American Indian acceptance of the physical and spiritual worlds as equally "real."

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