25 October, 2021

LitStaff Pick: Our Favorite Opening Lines

The Poisonwood Bible
Barbara Kingsolver

My favorite opening line has got to be from The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Actually, the entire first paragraph is one of my favorite paragraphs ever written.

You see, me, I’m a genre reader, and Poisonwood Bible is not exactly my genre. But I’ve been trying to expand my reading horizons, and a friend recommended Poisonwood Bible, and then I saw it on sale at the library for fifty cents, so I took a chance, figuring I didn’t have much to lose. I wasn’t expecting to like it.

And then, oh, then I read the first paragraph:

Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened. First, picture the forest. I want you to be its conscience, the eyes in the trees. The trees are columns of slick, brindled bark like muscular animals overgrown beyond all reason. Every space is filled with life: delicate, poisonous frogs war-painted like skeletons, clutched in copulation, secreting their precious eggs onto dripping leaves. Vines strangling their own kin in the everlasting wrestle for sunlight. The breathing of monkeys. A glide of snake belly on branch. A single-file army of ants biting a mammoth tree into uniform grains and hauling it down to the dark for their ravenous queen. And, in reply, a choir of seedlings arching their necks out of rotted tree stumps, sucking life out of death. This forest eats itself and lives forever.

Those words created such a vivid scene, an entire world in my head. I could imagine being the forest, feeling the animals crawl and the plants grow. Within seconds, The Poisonwood Bible was catapulted to the top of my list of favorites, and the rest of the book did not disappoint. From the very beginning, Kingsolver proved herself to be one of the authors whose every word I want to soak up from start to finish.

-Elisha Dew


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