The Help Desk: Kingsolver? I can't even Kingstander!

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

Maybe you covered this before, but, if not, I need help. My husband and I read The Poisonwood Bible, and I loved it and he hated it. Sure, you know, individual tastes and whatnot, but it’s more than that. I mean, we disagree over movies all the time and manage to keep it light. But my goodness, he hated it. To me, it read as an affirmation of life and the struggles women have faced, and so when he gets all aggro about how much it sucks and there are no good men in it, so it’s sexist, it’s kind of like he’s attacking me. So, that’s weird. How can I get over myself?

Molly on Magnolia

Dear Molly,

My apologies. I have avoided your question for weeks, much as I avoid questions like “Why do you blame your daddy issues on your mother?” and “What’s the capitol of Minnesota?” — because there is simply no easy answer. You see, I also harbor an irrational hatred of The Poisonwood Bible. Intellectually, I can appreciate Kingsolver’s mastery of having five unique female narrators and, as you pointed out, her focus on the plight of women (not just in this book but others). But yeah, I can’t stand any of her books. I think I suffered a rage blackout for the entirety of Prodigal Summer. I have brought Mrs. Kingsolver as my guest to quite a few book burnings over the years.

That said, your husband’s justification that The Poisonwood Bible sucks because it’s sexist is a hot load of horeshit. Tell your husband books can’t discriminate against fictional men. He can dislike a book for good reasons or no reason at all, but inventing nonsense reasons just makes him look like a turd. (Also, how many popular books, television shows, movies, etc. feature absolutely no relatable, wholly-developed, “good” women in them? Too many to count. If your husband can’t relate to a book simply because of the gender of its main characters, he’s the sexist one.)

But to your question: How do I get over myself? I don’t think you should have to. Your emotional response to the book is what all writers hope for from their readers. You get to treasure that feeling. Your husband didn’t respond to it that way, much as I didn’t. So now he needs to do the polite and loving thing, which is fuck right off and not ruin your afterglow.