My favorite novel so far
It WAS "Sophie's Choice" until Barbara Kingsolver's "Poisonwood Bible" bumped it to #2. It's the story of the family of a Baptist preacher who drags his wife and 4 daughters off to the Belgian Congo to save souls in the middle of the political unrest there in the late 1950s. Although the father is a complete and utter caricature- an ignorant and bigoted zealot who has no empathy or understanding for the natives he is trying to convert (Note: Kingsolver’s politics are apparent; the father is a stand in for the West’s colonization and oppression of the indigenous population) his wife and daughters are beautiful drawn, three dimensional, complicated individuals. Their stories and the each daughter’s ambivalent, heartbreaking relationship with their mother is told convincingly from each character’s points of view. The daughters coming of age and the family’s ultimate deterioration plays out against an evocative backdrop. The sights, sounds and smells of an African village are palpable as is the fear and dread of civil war. It left a lasting impression.