Joy's comments were too long for my comments section, so she e-mailed them to me...and I find that she was better at wording some of my own feelings about the book:
"having a heart for reform in the church, reform in the way churches 'do'
missions, and for africa itself, i was very eager to read The Poisonwood Bible.
"i agree with you on the lyrical style and literary beauty of this novel.
it was well worth the read from the artistic standpoint.
"i even liked it from the cross-cultural learning standpoint because it helped me see how most foreigners must come across, particularly americans, to nationals, whether they are believers or not.
"i do think that the author's worldview taints her writing, and i'll go so far as to say this taint spoils the book. while i recognize that my own worldview and experience and even personal makeup influence my reading of her work, i believe that it's the author's responsibility to not only demonstrate her prerogative to say what she wants to say but also to be honest about the big picture and where her story fits into the big picture.
"when she perpetuates a presupposition that white Baptist missionaries are narrowminded Bible-thumpers (but not really Bible readers or gracious God-loving people-lovers), then she perpetuates a distorted view of the whole, and thereby dissolves her own credibility."
Excellent point, Joy!
Also, author Robin Lee Hatcher recommends another missionary-based book: "My problem with the book is that everybody loses. Even going into the future, what we see are ruined lives, a future without hope. I kept thinking I wish this story had been written by a Christian. A few years later, my wish was granted. Catherine Palmer wrote THE HAPPY ROOM, a story of missionaries in Africa. So if you haven't read Palmer's book (she is the daughter of missionaries - also Baptist if I'm not mistaken), give it a try."
I certainly will, Robin. I've read a few books by Catherine and really enjoyed them.