Literature Study GuidesThe Poisonwood BibleBook 5 Section 2 Parts 6 7 Summary

The Poisonwood Bible | Study Guide

Barbara Kingsolver

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The Poisonwood Bible | Book 5, Section 2 (Parts 6–7) : Exodus (What We Carried Out) | Summary

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Summary

Leah Price Ngemba

On January 17, 1965, Leah is now living in Bikoki Station, married to Anatole. This date is always hard for them, as it is both the anniversary of Ruth May's death, and the anniversary of Lumumba's assassination. Leah knows her grief is small compared to what the Congolese have lost, but she says, "If I can't yet mourn a million people ... I'll start with one."

After Anatole was released from prison, they settled at Bikoki Station with Anatole's Aunt Elisabet. Anatole now teaches in a local school, and Leah volunteers at a health clinic. They are careful about what they say, although they are still strong believers in Congolese independence. They occasionally hear of people from their past lives. Pascal and others from the village were killed in the fighting. Brother Fowles and his wife occasionally visit. Nathan continues to live in the jungle, running his isolated church and suffering serious health issues. Basically, Leah is separated from her entire family. She is furious with Nathan, unable to reach Adah or Orleanna, and disdainful of Rachel. She holds on to Anatole and tries not to worry too much about the future.

Adah Price

At Christmastime 1968 Adah is working at Emory Hospital. She learns her disability is all in her head. A neurologist she met in medical school insisted she had no physical reason for her disability, and he was proved right. She slowly teaches herself to walk and move normally. Although she recovers physically, Adah struggles emotionally. Leah, Anatole, and their son, Pascal, are living in Atlanta now, and Leah is pregnant with another child. Leah is attending college, and while they claim that they plan to stay in Atlanta, Adah is convinced they will return to Africa soon. She can see how uncomfortable they are with some parts of American life, and she understands why. Adah says, "I carried out of Congo ... a ferocious uncertainty about the worth of a life," which is challenging now that she is a doctor. Adah also fears Orleanna will like Leah better if Leah stays.

Adah says she needs an answer from her mother as to why at that critical moment she saved her. Orleanna hesitates, then says when bad things happen "a mother takes care of her children from the bottom up." Adah was the youngest, once Ruth May was gone, so Orleanna chose her. Adah accepts that.

Analysis

Unlike Rachel, Leah and Adah are both haunted by Ruth May. Leah describes how January 17, the anniversary of Ruth May's death, is always difficult for her. Anatole has sympathy to a point, but so many people have been lost in the Congo that a single death does not weigh as heavily for him. Leah is well aware of the other losses, but she cannot—or will not—let go of Ruth May.

Adah provides a voice for Anatole, Leah, and their son, Pascal, in this chapter as they visit America. Adah's worldview has been changed by her time in Africa. Although she is a doctor, she understands why the Congolese would simply let some babies die. This may be why she wonders so much about Orleanna's decision to save her.

Adah sees herself in contrast to Ruth May, and in contrast to Leah. She wonders constantly about why her mother picked her, and whether her mother will "choose" Leah over her. Because of her disability, Adah's whole life has been defined by how she compares to other people. Orleanna's answer is freeing. She was saved because she was the youngest one left. When the ants attacked and her mother left her behind to save Ruth May, it was because Ruth May was the youngest. "There is no worth," she thinks. Even after Adah has found a way to become physically whole, she needs this reassurance to become emotionally whole.

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