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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Note: The novel is the story, told in five voices, of the Price family who travels to the Congo as missionaries to the people of Kilanga province. The story is not told in a traditional chronological format of standard chapters, but rather is divided into six books plus an epilogue. Each book contains several "clusters" of events upon which the narrative voices comment.
Book One: Genesis
Orleanna Price. Sanderling Island, Georgia
Orleanna Price, the mother of the Price children and wife of Nathan Price, begins the novel by talking about the experience of Africa after the fact. She has returned home to Georgia and seems sad and bitter about the experience. She sees the African forest as she did from the beginning as a place of gloom even though it is "filled with life." The animals are poisonous, the vines "strangle their own," the forest "eats itself and lives forever."
Her opinion of herself is one of a useless wife and failed mother; she feels that her children never needed her, that her husband could never have loved her. At one point her daughters had told her that she never had a life of her own, but her response is that her own life was the only thing she did have. She considers herself only a "captive witness" to all that happened in Africa, yet struggles with guilt about her own part in leading her family into Africa. Her chapter is an invitation to readers to draw their own conclusions about the story the rest of the book will tell.
The first chapter begins a pattern of narration that is followed throughout the book. Each book begins with Orleanna Price, wife of Nathan who speaks from her home in Georgia after returning from the Congo. Bit by bit, she works her way backward until she finally explains, midway through the novel, how she became involved with Nathan Price. She establishes her audience, "my un-captured favorite child," in this first section, although it is done so casually that it is easily overlooked. She explains that she is still struggling to live with the things she learned; she tries to shed the blame for the things that happened on one hand and yet claims a role of her own as a conqueror’s wife on the other. Orleanna begins her narrative by addressing the "eyes in the trees." Her plea will come full circle and be answered by those "eyes" at the end of the novel..
(The remaining narratives of each "book" are told under a subtitle and clustered around situations and/or events that are shared or observed by the Price daughters. Therefore, after the first rotation, the notes are in reference to each "cluster." [my designation])