The garden to Mama Tataba's departure



While her sisters help their mother set up house Leah tags along with her father as he tries to plant a "demonstration garden" using the seeds he has brought along from home. His intention is to provide food for his family, and also to show the natives how they can provide for themselves with simple agricultural principles. Mama Tataba watches over him skeptically. Mama Tataba, we learn here, is the Price's live-in helper, left to them by the previous missionary, Brother Fowles. Leah has overheard her parents discussing Brother Fowles and understands that he was an Irish Catholic from New York who he went crazy and began consorting inappropriately with the inhabitants. In addition to Mama Tataba, Brother Fowles has also left another gift for the Prices: the parrot Methuselah.

Mama Tataba tells Reverend Price that he is planting incorrectly, and instructs him to make little mounds for the seeds. She also warns that the plant he is currently grappling with is a Poisonwood tree, and that it bites. He dismisses both her warnings with contempt. The next morning Reverend Price's arms and hands are covered in a painful rash, and his right eye is swollen shut, from where he wiped his brow with poisonwood-smeared hands. Leah notices that Mama Tataba reshaped their garden overnight, creating long piles of dirt like burial mounds. Leah and her father go outside and level the mounds, replanting the seeds in the flat ground.


Though it is the middle of the summer, Reverend Price declares an impromptu Easter Sunday to muster some enthusiasm for church. Until now, attendance has been almost zero. Though his intention for the day is a mass baptism, the men present in church adamantly refuse this suggestion. Instead, Reverend Price settles for a pageant, followed by a church supper down by the river.

Drawn by the promise of food, nearly the entire village attends the picnic. Orleanna had immediately recognized this picnic as a chance to gain some support for the church, and so she has killed nearly all the chickens left to them by Brother Fowles and spends the morning frying them. Reverend Price does not even notice how his wife has won over the crowd with her generosity and good cooking. He spends the picnic staring glumly out at the water, thinking of the baptism that has failed to occur.

Ruth May

Ruth May overhears Mama Tataba and her own mother talking about their next door neighbor Mama Mwanza, who has lost both of her legs in a house fire, but continues to care for her tremendous family as if nothing were wrong with her. Ruth May reflects on the fact that many people in Kilanga are physically disabled, with missing limbs and eyes, and that no one seems to even notice this. Instead of staring at Adah for her handicap, as people did back home, here people only stare in horror at Rachel's platinum blond hair.