The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

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Adah Price Character Analysis

The daughter of Nathaniel and Orleanna Price, and the twin sister of Leah Price, Adah Price is a highly intelligent young woman who’s been disadvantaged by the symptoms of hemiplegia, a blood disease that leaves her with limited control of her own limbs. Because Adah has trouble moving, she tends to be quiet and calm. Nevertheless, she’s immensely thoughtful and insightful, as we see in the chapters narrated from her point of view. Adah resents her father even more than her siblings do, and she sees his devotion to Christianity as both childish and extremely arrogant. Over the course of the novel, Adah develops a new appreciation for the complexities of nature. Life in the Congo teaches her that everything is connected, and that the life of one species is always tied to the death of another. As an adult, Adah returns to the United States with her mother, where she becomes a world-class medical researcher: her experiences in the Congo give her the perfect impartial temperament for a career as a scientist. Adah also regains control of her body: a symbol of her newfound freedom and autonomy as an adult.

Adah Price Quotes in The Poisonwood Bible

The The Poisonwood Bible quotes below are all either spoken by Adah Price or refer to Adah Price . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper Perennial edition of The Poisonwood Bible published in 1999.
Book 1, Chapter 11 Quotes

“That road,” said our mother, bemused, gesturing with a lazy bent wrist out the window. “Why, I can’t imagine.” She shook her head, possibly not believing. Can she allow herself not to believe him? I have never known. “It was at the end of a dry season, Orleanna,” he snapped. “When it’s hot enough the puddles dry up.” You brainless nitwit, he did not need to add.

Related Characters: Nathaniel Price (speaker), Orleanna Price (speaker), Adah Price (speaker)
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage offers a good example of the way that Nathaniel belittles his family and keeps his wife "in line." When Orleanna asks a natural question, Nathan shoots back with an angry, irritable reply, sending a clear message that Orleanna should keep quiet.

It's interesting to consider that while Kingsolver's novel is full of scenes like this one, in which Nathan uses words in an almost violent way, there's no actual domestic violence in the novel. Kingsolver suggests that Nathan does the greatest damage to his wife and children by making them doubt their own intelligence and competence—snapping at them again and again until they've been trained to be quiet and obedient.

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Book 2, Chapter 25 Quotes

Set upon by the civet cat, the spy, the eye, the hunger of a superior need, Methuselah is free of his captivity at last. This is what he leaves to the world: gray and scarlet feathers strewn over the damp grass. Only this and nothing more, the tell-tale heart, tale of the carnivore. None of what he was taught in the house of the master. Only feathers, “without the ball of Hope inside. Feathers at last at last and no words at all.

Related Characters: Adah Price (speaker)
Related Symbols: Methuselah
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of Book II of the novel, Adah discovers that Methuselah, the talking parrot that the Prices have kept as a pet in their new Congolese home, has been "freed" from his cage and eaten by a carnivore. Adah muses on this, and how it relates to ideas of freedom and hope (quoting an Emily Dickinson poem in the process).

It's important to keep in mind that Kingsolver is paralleling Methuselah's "liberation" with the Congo's. Just as Methuselah is being exposed to the elements after a lifetime of imprisonment (and then is promptly eaten), so too are the Congolese being allowed to run their own government after nearly a century of subjugation to the European powers. Yes, the Congolese are "free," but as we'll see, freedom can cause almost as much pain and suffering as subjugation. (Kingsolver certainly isn't suggesting that the Congolese should have remained under Belgian rule; she's just foreshadowing the problems the newly liberated Congolese will encounter in the future.)

Book 3, Chapter 28 Quotes

Then there is batiza, Our Father’s fixed passion. Batiza pronounced with the tongue curled just so means “baptism.” Otherwise, it means “to terrify.” Nelson spent part of an afternoon demonstrating to me that fine linguistic difference while we scraped chicken manure from the nest boxes. No one has yet explained it to the Reverend. He is not of a mind to receive certain news. Perhaps he should clean more chicken houses.

Related Characters: Adah Price (speaker), Nathaniel Price
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Adah points out a translation problem. The word "batiza" means "baptism"—therefore, it's very important to Nathan, who has come to the Congo to baptize as many African children as possible. And yet "batiza" can also mean "terrify" if pronounced slightly differently.

Notably, Adah has only learned the difference between the two "batiza"s by spending time with the native Congolese. Nathan, who for all his interest in baptizing the Congolese, doesn't seem to like them or respect them at all, has remained ignorant of the finer points of Congolese language—and his arrogant aloofness guarantees that he can't communicate with his congregation. The ambiguity in the word "batiza" also symbolizes the way that religion and ideology can be twisted from something pure into something corrupt and wicked.

Book 3, Chapter 33 Quotes

But where is the place for girls in that Kingdom? The rules don’t quite apply to us, nor protect us either. What do a girl’s bravery and righteousness count for, unless she is also pretty? Just try being the smartest and most Christian seventh-grade girl in Bethlehem, Georgia. Your classmates will smirk and call you a square. Call you worse, if you’re Adah.

Related Characters: Leah Price (speaker), Adah Price
Page Number: 244
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Leah Price struggles with her Christian faith. Leah—who's always been Nathan's biggest fan—has learned from her father to work hard studying the Bible. But Leah also knows that studying the Bible doesn't count for much among her peers. No matter how pious and well-studied she is, her classmates in Georgia treat her like a square—all they care about is how pretty she is.

In short, Leah is beginning to doubt the lessons her father has always taught her. Although Nathan claims that Christian faith is sufficient to let a woman into Heaven, Leah has begun to notice that Nathan—and, for that matter, everyone else in her life—doesn't judge women according to their Christian faith at all. Nathan treats women like second-class citizens, no matter how learned or pious they are. Leah begins to realize that Christianity doesn't go far enough in addressing sexism. Eventually, Leah will turn to politics and the radical left as a way of addressing the bigotry of her society.

Book 3, Chapter 35 Quotes

Nelson squatted on his heels, his ashy eyelids blinking earnestly as he inspected Mother’s face. Surprisingly, she started to laugh. Then, more surprisingly, Nelson began to laugh, too. He threw open his near-toothless mouth and howled alongside Mother, both of them with their hands on their thighs. I expect they were picturing Rachel wrapped in a pagne trying to pound manioc. Mother wiped her eyes. “Why on earth do you suppose he’d pick Rachel?” From her voice I could tell she was not smiling, even after all that laughter. “He says the Mvula’s, strange color would cheer up his other wives.”

Related Characters: Orleanna Price (speaker), Adah Price (speaker), Lekuyu / Nelson (speaker), Tata Ndu
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Tata Ndu, the leader of the Congolese village where the Prices live now, has asked for Rachel's hand in marriage. The Prices are shocked by Ndu's request, not least because Ndu already has many other wives. Here, Orleanna and Nelson laugh about the absurdity of the situation. Nelson points out that Ndu wants to marry Rachel not because he loves her, but because her skin and hair color will complement that of his other wives.

The passage is important because it reminds us of the sexism in Kingala—a parallel to the sexism in Nathan's own household. Evidently, Ndu thinks of women as objects to be collected, rather than people. Orleanna, even though she laughs at the absurdity of the situation, becomes serious as she contemplates Ndu's "desire" for her daughter. Orleanna's aim is always to protect her children, and here she realizes that her child is in danger of being "bought" by the sexist leader of the village.

Book 3, Chapter 43 Quotes

My knees plunged, a rush of hot blood made me fall. A faintness of the body is my familiar, but not the sudden, evil faint of a body infected by horrible surprise. By this secret: the smiling bald man with the grandfather face has another face. It can speak through snakes and order that a president far away, after all those pebbles were carried upriver in precious canoes that did not tip over, this President Lumumba shall be killed.

Related Characters: Adah Price (speaker), Patrice Lumumba
Page Number: 297
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Adah Price discovers something shocking. Eavesdropping on Axelroot, the secret American agent who lives in the village, Adah learns that President Eisenhower is planning to assassinate Patrice Lumumba, the democratically elected leader of the Congo. (In real life, Eisenhower was supportive of a military coup in the Congo. He believed that Lumumba, a suspected socialist, would be more sympathetic to the Soviet Union; wanting to avoid an African alliance against the United States, Eisenhower had Lumumba murdered and replaced with a pro-U.S. dictator.)

Adah can't believe that Eisenhower—whose popular image is that of a kind, grandfatherly old man—is secretly capable of ordering the murder of innocent people. On a more symbolic level, Adah's surprise in this scene reflects her general distrust of patriarchy in general, whether that of Eisenhower or Nathan himself. The image of respectability and trustworthiness that strong, authoritative men project is often an illusion, concealing hypocrisy or duplicity.

Book 5, Chapter 74 Quotes

Don’t we have a cheerful, simple morality here in Western Civilization: expect perfection, and revile the missed mark! Adah the Poor Thing, hemiplegious egregious besiege us. Recently it has been decided, grudgingly, that dark skin or lameness may not be entirely one’s fault, but one still ought to show the good manners to act ashamed. When Jesus cured those crippled beggars, didn’t they always get up and dance off stage, jabbing their canes sideways and waggling their top hats? Hooray, all better now, hooray!

Related Characters: Adah Price (speaker)
Page Number: 493
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Adah, now an adult (and a prominent scientist), thinks about the shallowness of the Western world's notion of imperfection. In the West, Adah realizes, pain and disability are thought of as hideous diseases, to be transcended through religion or medical treatment. Disabled people are thought of as imperfect—they're pitied for their physical problems, and expected to act apologetic and grateful at all times. Adah, who was disabled for many years (she could barely walk), has a more complex and subtle relationship with her disability. She doesn't resent her "imperfect" body—on the contrary, she embraces it, even after she regains full motor control.

Adah goes further, seeing in the Western world's treatment of disabled people a more general problem. Westerners, she believes, think of "different" people either as monsters to be killed or invalids to be pitied—but never as human beings. In other words, the West's shallow treatment of disabled people reflects a more general bigotry—the same racism that led Belgium and later the U.S. to intervene militarily in the Congo. Adah embraces her body in all its perfections and imperfections, and by the same token, she embraces people of all races.

Book 6, Chapter 78 Quotes

My work is to discover the life histories of viruses, and I seem to be very good at it. I don’t think of the viruses as my work, actually. I think of them as my relations. I don’t have cats or children, I have viruses. I visit them daily in their spacious glass dishes, and like any good mother I cajole, I celebrate when they reproduce, and I take special note when they behave oddly. I think about them when I am not with them. I have made important discoveries about the AIDS and Ebola viruses. As a consequence, I must sometimes appear at public functions where I am lauded as a savior of the public health. This startles me. I am nothing of the kind. Certainly I’m no mad exterminator bent on killing devil microbes; on the contrary, I admire them. That is the secret of my success.

Related Characters: Adah Price (speaker)
Page Number: 530
Explanation and Analysis:

As a grown woman, Adah has developed her own unique philosophy. Adah has become a medical researcher—her job is to study viruses, including Ebola and AIDS. While most of her colleagues think of these viruses as deadly enemies, to be wiped out Adah thinks of them as fascinating strangers--to be greeted, embraced, and understood.

In short, Adah's attitude toward AIDs and Ebola reflects the way she's learned to treat unfamiliar people, and also her rather detached way of viewing the world and morality itself. By the same token, her colleagues' attitude toward viruses reflects the Western world's narrow-minded way of understanding difference. Most people think of viruses as enemies to be eradicated; Adah, trained by her years in the Congo to understand strangers, opts for a more nuanced, accepting point of view. While it may seem unusual to treat a deadly disease as anything other than an enemy, Adah has had great success in curing sick patients because of her unique worldview.

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Adah Price Character Timeline in The Poisonwood Bible

The timeline below shows where the character Adah Price appears in The Poisonwood Bible. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 2
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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...nail polish, which Leah considers “Rachel to a T.” On the plane, Rachel jokes with Adah, her sister. When the family disembarks in Leopoldville, Leah’s younger sister, Ruth May, faints. She... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
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...of the crowd, Rachel takes a good look at her siblings: the twins (Leah and Adah) and Ruth May. Adah is shorter than Leah because of her “handicap.” Together, the Price... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 5
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Adah Price describes her first morning in the Congo, the day after she arrives in Africa.... (full context)
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The women of the village, Adah notes, wear skirts when they work in the field or run errands. Their skirts are... (full context)
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Adah thinks about “Our Father,” Nathan. He has brought a hammer to the village, but this... (full context)
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Adah considers her “condition,” which has left her so different from Leah, despite the fact that... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 6
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...they’ll eat her alive. Rachel claims that she’s sick, but eventually she, Ruth May, and Adah help with unpacking. They put up mosquito netting and take quinine pills to avoid malaria—the... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 9
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Adah quizzes Leah in Bible verses. She gives Leah the verse, “Neither diabolical nor divine,” but... (full context)
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Adah thinks about the elementary school teacher who discovered that she was intelligent—Miss Leep. If it... (full context)
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Adah notices a parrot that flies around the house in the Congo. She’s named the parrot... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 11
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Adah describes how Nathan throws around the word “amen,” and she refers to this process as... (full context)
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Afterwards, Nathan eats supper with the rest of his family. Adah notes that Nathan rarely strikes his children at the dinner table. Instead, he asks them... (full context)
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...the meat, and this requires a lot of time, since it’s sometimes full of parasites. Adah wonders about the creatures that God made: some of them are strange and even disgusting.... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 14
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Orleanna insists that Adah and Leah continue with their schoolwork, even though there’s no school for them to attend.... (full context)
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...notices Eeben Axelroot, who lives in a shack far from the center of the village. Adah and Leah spy on Axelroot together, and they hear that he owns a radio. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 17
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Adah explains that she’s recently been declared dead—Tata Ndu declared it, assuming she’d been eaten by... (full context)
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One afternoon, Leah and Adah go to gather water. This is tough for Adah, since she only has one good... (full context)
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Adah makes it back to the house, with Leah walking far ahead of her, bearing the... (full context)
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Eventually, Adah gets up and shuffles over to Nathan and Ndu. Ndu is highly embarrassed, and leaves... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 21
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Adah thinks of one of her favorite poets, William Carlos Williams. She likes this name, and... (full context)
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...fewer children are dying of disease. Meanwhile, Axelroot travels widely to sell supplies and technology. Adah becomes more conscious of the way her community is seen in other parts of the... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 25
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It is June 13th, 1960—Independence Day for the Congo. On this same day, Adah follows a trail of feathers and realizes that Methuselah has been “freed” from his cage... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 26
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...of his life, and impress upon his own children the laws of Christianity. He interpreted Adah’s medical problems as God’s punishment—though for what, Orleanna was never sure. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 28
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“Muntu,” Adah thinks, is the Congolese word for man. She’s interested to learn that it’s also the... (full context)
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Nelson asks Adah what happened to the Price family before Adah’s birth—in other words, what tragedy were the... (full context)
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Adah learns other words, such as “batiza,” or “baptism,” the practice that Nathan has worked so... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 30
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...become sick and feverish. Nathan ignores them, however. He just continues with his preaching, leaving Adah, Rachel, and Leah to take care of his wife and daughter. (full context)
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Rachel works with Adah and Leah to figure out how the family will survive from now on. They’ll need... (full context)
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Adah notices that Rachel is acting more adult than usual—volunteering to bake bread, for example. Rachel... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 33
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...fire too hot, and Rachel lashes out, telling Leah that she should be silent, like Adah. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 34
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...in the house, and Fowles ends up leaving instead of staying for dinner. He leaves Adah with some books, and also offers some supplies to Orleanna. Before he goes, he tells... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 40
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...mornings. As a show of thanks, Anatole gives Leah a bow and quiver of arrows. Adah feels alienated from Leah, especially because Anatole is “breaking rules for her.” Oblivious to the... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 42
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...they’re engaged. Axelroot makes Rachel laugh by joking about Rachel’s sisters, and he mentions that Adah spies on her from time to time. He offers Rachel a Lucky Strike cigarette, and... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 43
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Adah watches the sunset and thinks about the children who have died in the village. Whenever... (full context)
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Adah has been spying on Axelroot, and whenever she listens to his radio, she hears the... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 44
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...to the danger. Leah is embarrassed that she walked out of the house without alerting Adah to the ants—she’s betrayed her “other half.” (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 46
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Ruth May and Orleanna reach the river, where they see Adah. Orleanna moves to talk to Adah, and suddenly Ruth May feels someone else “had a... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 47
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Adah tries to make sense of what she saw the night of the ants. She could... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 48
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Leah rushes toward the river, noticing that Anatole is behind her, carrying Adah. He explains that Orleanna and Ruth May have gone ahead with Tata Boanda. Rachel, Anatole... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 52
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The hunters venture out into the forest. Adah joins some of the elderly women, who carry ceremonial torches. Orleanna and Ruth May also... (full context)
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Adah thinks back on this day in her life with amusement and admiration—this was the day... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 56
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...defeat the “omen.” She asks her sisters if they’ll help her, but nobody answers. Then Adah gets up to give Leah a hand. (full context)
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Outside, Leah and Adah help Nelson, who’s seen a snake near the chicken house, and is suspicious that there’s... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 57
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Adah, Nelson, and Leah wake up early the next morning, hoping to catch the supposed intruder... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 59
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Adah notes that she was not present when Ruth May was born, but she was there... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 60
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Rachel has just learned from Leah and Adah that Ruth May is dead. Rachel, as the eldest child, decides that she will tell... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 63
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...of traveling to Bulungu (it’s not immediately explained why). Leah considers everything that’s happened recently. Adah told her about the strange man she’s seen meeting with Axelroot. Also, Leah considers the... (full context)
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...proceeds to walk along the road to Bulungu. They travel light to save themselves effort. Adah has trouble walking for long periods of time, and Rachel is unusually quiet. On the... (full context)
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Leah explains what happens in the following weeks. Orleanna and Adah leave Leopoldville, returning to the U.S. Nathan is still stationed in Kilanga. Rachel has left... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 65
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Adah begins by stating that she has “decided to speak.” Orleanna, by contrast, has seemingly lost... (full context)
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Adah explains that she and her mother traveled back to the United States, where nobody could... (full context)
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In college, Adah relished the study of zoology and genetics. She didn’t communicate with her mother very often,... (full context)
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Adah backs up to explain what happened when the family left for Bulungu. Orleanna gathered her... (full context)
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When Adah returned to Georgia, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. After more than a year... (full context)
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Recently, Adah went through Nathan’s old things, still in the family house in Georgia. She discovered that... (full context)
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Adah thinks back to her last days in Bulungu, just before she and Orleanna left for... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 68
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...believes has “sold out” by marrying a “powerful mercenary.” She can’t communicate with Orleanna or Adah. Her only real family nowadays is Anatole. Anatole works as a secondary school teacher. Yet... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 69
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Adah is now in medical school. There, she meets a classmate who tells her that her... (full context)
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Adah also reports that Leah is living in Atlanta with Anatole and their son Pascal (Adah’s... (full context)
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Adah admits that she rarely sees Leah and Anatole, since she’s busy with medical school. She... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 70
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...issue of the Saturday Evening Post in the package, and she knows right away that Adah must have sent it. The magazine (from 1961) contains an article about how the U.S.... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 71
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...at all. She imagines her sisters surveying her hotel. Leah would compliment her hospitality, while Adah would drolly compliment her “personal hygiene.” Rachel tells herself that Leah and Adah have avoided... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 72
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...the previous years, when they all lived in Atlanta. Leah herself is nostalgic for this time—Adah was in medical school then, and Orleanna was very kind to Leah and Pascal. (full context)
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...She writes letters to Anatole, reporting on her children’s health. She also writes letters to Adah, explaining her sadness. Leah envies Adah for her freedom and individuality—Adah has no lovers or... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 73
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...of Abomey had dozens of wives. This reminds Rachel of her three husbands. Leah and Adah begin to talk about Nathan. Adah claims that she got word that Nathan was in... (full context)
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...crocodile-infested river. Nathan was burned for this “crime.” Leah cries as she tells Rachel and Adah this information. (full context)
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...continues talking about Mobutu’s tyranny, and Rachel shouts at Leah for telling a “sob story.” Adah and Leah keep talking about the murders that the U.S. has sponsored in Zaire in... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 74
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Adah notes that Rachel is secretly remorseful for Nathan’s untimely death. Adah travels back to Georgia... (full context)
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Once, Adah talks to her mother about regaining her mobility. Orleanna tells Adah she’s glad that Adah... (full context)
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When Adah returns to Georgia from Africa, she sees Orleanna right away. She reports that Leah and... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 75
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...Patrice is quiet and tender, and looks a lot like Anatole. He reminds Leah of Adah. (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 78
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Adah has become a successful doctor in Atlanta. She contemplates her Hippocratic oath—the oath that binds... (full context)
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Adah offers a “creation story”—“God is a virus, God is an ant.” In other words, God... (full context)
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As a medical researcher, Adah has been researching rare African viruses. She’s good at her work because she’s not frightened... (full context)
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Adah visits Orleanna once a month. Orleanna is quite old now, and suffers from several diseases... (full context)
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In the end, Adah thinks of Nathan as an important influence on her life—the provider of half of her... (full context)