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Free Study Guide-The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver-Free Summary
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In Book Three-"The Judges"- most Americans and Europeans leave the Congo due to the change in political climate. Patrice Lumumba enjoys his post for a mere two weeks, then is arrested and replaced by a Belgian puppet who is ultimately also replaced by Mobutu, a dictator who will run the Congo for about thirty years. The Price family is told to leave the Congo, but Nathan refuses. Their financial stipend is halted, leaving them at the mercy of the villagers, and Ruth May and Orleanna spend weeks on the verge of death from malaria. Showing that he has more compassion than he was credited with, Tata Ndu tries to trade food and trinkets for Rachel whom is he asking for as another wife. Desperate to find a way out of the predicament without insulting Tata Ndu, Nathan and Axelroot create a scheme in which Rachel will pretend to be already engaged to Axelroot. The climax of Book Three is the invasion of the ants during an unusually intense dry season. The ants come in the night, devouring everything in their path, forcing the people to seek safety on the opposite side of the river. During the ant invasion, Adah "learns" that she is not worth saving, and Leah loses what little faith she had left in Christianity.


Book Four is the climax of the novel. The extended dry spell has left the people desperate for food. They plan a hunt, and Leah, having learned to shoot with a bow and arrow, decides to take part in obtaining meat for her family. The decision causes a major controversy as it is considered inappropriate for a woman to hunt. A vote, narrowly in her favor, allows her to hunt with the men, and she kills a young antelope. A fight ensues as one of the men tries to claim Leahís kill for himself. The witch doctor, Kuvudundu, predicts dire curses, and poisonous snakes begin to appear in unusual places. In the afternoon following the hunt, Nelson sees the sign of a curse on the henhouse. Intending to help Nelson discover the identity of the one who is planting the snakes, the girls spread ashes on the ground in front of the henhouse. The trick works, and the girls are able to identify the six-toed foot of Kuvudundu, but the snake planted inside the henhouse fatally strikes Ruth May. Orleanna single handedly prepares Ruth May for burial, then, followed by her remaining daughters, simply walks away from Kilanga and the Congo.

Book Five is like an extended conversation with an unseen audience as the remaining Price women take turns telling the stories of their lives after the death of Ruth May. Orleanna and Adah return to Georgia. Orleanna first lives in a small shack where she takes up gardening while Adah attends college and acquires a degree in medicine. Leah, who has a bout with malaria that makes it impossible for her to travel with her mother and Adah, eventually recovers and marries Anatole. In spite of the danger and two frightening terms in Mobutuís prisons, Leah and Anatole build a home and a family that is filled with love. By the end of the novel, the family is able to establish a life in relative safety in neighboring Angola.

Rachel marries Eben Axelroot, but after years of enduring his abuse and infidelity, leaves him for a French ambassador. That relationship is equally unsuccessful. She finally marries an older man, Remy Fairly, who dies, leaving her with a resort styled hotel. Rachel lives for herself, but is not unhappy with her situation.

Book Six summarizes each of the three sistersí feelings about their lives and memories while Book Seven is the voice of Ruth May. Ruth May comments on the things she has seen, on the state of death, and offers forgiveness to her mother.

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