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1974 to the End
Leah and Anatole now have three sons, Pascal, Patrice, and Martin-Lothaire, and live in the city of Kinshasa. Elisabet lives with them as well. Though they live in abject poverty, they live in relative luxury compared to most of those around them. Joseph Mobutu, in the meantime, lives like a king with palaces around the world. Leah's resentment toward the West and toward its pawn Mobutu deepens steadily. She is particularly disdainful of Mobutu's feints at creating national unity, such as his campaign to rename all of the locations in the country in more native terms, and his much-publicized hosting of a boxing match between Muhammed Ali and George Foreman.
After a failed marriage with the French diplomat, and another, happier, marriage to the now-dead Remy Fairley, Rachel is now on her own. In his will Fairely left her a luxury hotel, the Equatorial, north of Brazaville and she has found success as its owner and proprietress. She is happy cavorting with the rich businessmen who come to stay, but she is plagued by suspicions regarding the trustworthiness of her African staff. She deeply resents the fact that no members of her family have come to see the Equatorial. She cannot understand why Leah has never come, since she lives in the next country over.
Leah, Anatole, and their sons visit the United States again, this time for schooling. Leah studies agricultural engineering and Anatole political science and geography. When they return to their home, now called "Zaire," Anatole is arrested for his anti-Mobutu activity. Leah waits nervously, unsure if she will ever see him again.
There is only one month left until Anatole is released from prison, and he and Leah have made plans to found a farm commune near the South of Zaire. Orleanna has raised the money to buy a Land Rover for the venture, and since Adah must bring the Land Rover over to Africa, the three sisters decide to use this as an excuse for a reunion. Over their three-week trip tensions run high between Rachel and Leah, particularly on the subject of race. Rachel will not even allow Leah and Anatole to spend a night in her hotel, since she has a rule barring blacks from staying as guests. The biggest blow, however, comes when Leah informs her sisters that their father is dead. The people of the village in which he was last preaching asked him repeatedly to leave, but he refused and then took a boatload of children into the river to forcibly baptize them. The boat was turned over by a crocodile and all of the children died. The people ran Nathan out of town, and he climbed up a watchtower that they then set on fire.
Orleanna has moved to Sanderling Island on the Georgia coast, where she spends her time working in the garden. Adah is a renowned epidemiologist working for the Center for Disease Control. She is completely cured of her limp and other oddities, and misses these handicaps.
Leah and Anatole struggle to make their farm commune work. They now have four sons, the youngest being Nataniel, named after Nathan. They are anxiously hoping to move across the border to the nation of Angola that is free of foreign rule. However, the nation is currently war torn, in large part due to American interference. Leah is desperate to find a place she would actually like to call her home.
The notion of forgiveness pervades The Poisonwood Bible but until now the forgiveness has been associated with Orleanna, as her one guiding goal in life. Here we see the question of forgiveness shift toward Nathan—now that he is dead, can the women in his life forgive him? Only Leah it seems, is capable of doing so. Adah memorializes him coldly, remarking that he was a despicable man. Orleanna too seems completely unmoved by his death, claiming that his death or life means nothing to her. Yet in a sense it seems as if she has forgiven him, or at least moved past caring about him very much at all. The blame she feels for herself is so strong, that it leaves little room for anyone else's guilt.
Leah is the only one to cry over her father's death. Whereas the others feel that they can finally put him out of their minds, Leah thinks sadly of him, pitying him. She wishes that he too could have been redeemed through the "simple human relief of knowing you've done wrong and living through it" (Song of the Three Children: Leah Price). She even names her youngest son after him in an act of honor and love.
In her last narrative of "Exodus," Leah describes how she has become used to the subtle language of her neighbors, in which intonation is as important as the sounds uttered. It is likely that this achievement indicates a deeper one, Leah's successful acculturation into the country she has adopted, her full understanding of its ways and meanings. The subtlety of the local language is something that all the Prices struggled with enormously throughout their stay in the Congo. Nathan, of course, was the only one who never caught on at all to the importance of intonation, preaching every week that Jesus is a fatal Poisonwood Tree, when he meant to declare that Jesus was dearly beloved. Just as each culture has its own linguistic personality, she hints, each of her sisters had their own linguistic personality as well. Though she does not go on to make this further point, the case can also be made that each of these linguistic personalities reveals the deeper personality of the girl. Rachel consistently and unapologetically misuses words. This mirrors the fact that she is self-involved, and wholly inward looking, ignoring the larger world around her. Adah's tendency to read words both backward and forward indicates her brilliance as an observer, her ability to see more in a glance than most could see in a lengthy examination. Ruth May, adventurous, confident, and playful, cheerfully invented her own language in which to communicate with the local children. Finally Leah, who relates to the world through her boundless capacity to love, uses French and Lingala lessons as a pretense under which to spend time with her future husband, Anatole.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Poisonwood Bible!