I cannot even begin to say how much I have loved this book.
I read it in two days (while recovering from a nasty bout of Gastroenteritis, just to feel closer to some of the characters!) and completely sunk in the story.
Set in the Belgian Congo in the '60s we follow a family of Baptists missionaries as they settle in a tiny village in the jungle. The story is told by the different points of view of the daughters and the mother.
There's an overzealous Reverend father who is the epitome of the distant, domineering, cynical father who leaves his daughters suffering in very different ways.
Their mother does what she can and we learn to understand why she acts the way she does.
Religion is definitely a major issue in the book, as is language and interpretation, family relations, relating to a new culture, pride and adaptability.
But the main character is without a doubt Africa, in all its fierce wounded presence, the political turmoil, its nature, its contrasts, its scary relentless diseases, its people's generosity and empathy but also the ferocity and anger some harbor for various reasons.
You can tell Kingsolver was a little white child who was brought up in the Congo, she can explain places, smells, tones of voices, gestures and feelings in a way only somebody who lived something on its skin can.
The author skillfully interweaves personal plots within the fabric of the politics of Africa, relating things in a caring, intelligent way.
I loved this book with all my heart. I shall cherish it forever and recommend it to all my friends who have even a passing interest in the sad situation of Africa.
As in the book one night a great army of Soldier Ants, 100 meters wide and several miles long, invade the village gnawing everything that is not mineral they find, I include a photo of a few little, harmless but no less determined ants I found in my tamed English garden!
And in today's Guardian there's a lovely collection of photos of ordinary people from Congo, as it's 50 years this month from Independence day, which was June 30, 1960.
It made my day.