Leah stands outside a train station and remembers all the things that have happened to her recently. That morning, she killed a snake that was crawling through her and Anatole’s home. The date is January 17, the anniversary of the day on which the Congo lost its newfound independence and Ruth May lost her life.
Once again, Kingsolver draws an explicit parallel between the tragedies besetting the Price family ands those besetting the Congo itself.
Anatole has been released from prison and miraculously allowed to live, despite the fact that many Congolese dissidents have been executed. While in jail, Anatole made friends with his guards, and taught them how to read and write. As a gesture of thanks, they gave him the books of the politician Agistonho Neto. Neto and Anatole struck up a friendship via correspondence. Anatole sympathized with Neto’s struggle as an educated, pro-Lumumba Congolese man—Neto was beaten up by the police for expressing his political views.
As usual, one of Anatole’s greatest weapons is his friendliness and his gregariousness. It’s this that first endears him to the Prices in the first place (especially Leah), and here it helps ensure that he’s freed from prison as soon as possible. In the narrative at least, Neto is presented as a worthy successor to Patrice Lumumba: a popular, charismatic young leader who supports socialism in Africa.
After being released from prison, Anatole and Leah moved to the town of Bikoki, where Anatole lived as a child. Recently, Leah reunited with the Fowles family, who told her that one of Anatole’s old students in the village, Pascal, was murdered on Christmas Day for opposing the Mobutu government. Brother Fowles also told Leah that Nathan had been continuing with his missionary efforts until very recently. Nathan was forced to leave Kilanga, however, when he became sick. As a result, nobody knows where he is now.
Pascal’s death marks the passage of time in a poignant, tragic way. By the same token, it’s strangely touching that even Nathan, who’d stubbornly refused to leave Kilanga to the point where he endangered his family’s life, has been forced out of the community: the times really are changing.
Leah faces the truth: she’s lost her family, one member at a time. She can only feel hatred for Rachel, who she 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 Leah carries the memory of her little sister, Ruth May, deep inside her.
Leah has become increasingly political in the last few years: the catastrophe in the Congo has ensured as much. Her choice to create a new family for herself (represented by Anatole) is both tragic and inspiring: she’s rebelling against the control Nathan exerted over her for so many years, but she’s also forced to distance herself from her mother and sisters.