Study Guide

The Poisonwood Bible How to Survive 101 Calamities

By Barbara Kingsolver

How to Survive 101 Calamities

Worst-Case Survivors

Rachel refers to the fictional book How to Survive 101 Calamities on two occasions. This book is like the Worst-Case Scenario guides, except the "worst-case" in this instance is… Rachel herself.

Like, here's the Worst-Case-approved strategy she uses to survive the plague of ants: "I stuck my elbows very hard into the ribs of the people who were crushing in around me, and kind of wedged myself in. [...] Instead of getting trampled I simply floated like a stick in a river, carried along on everyone else's power" (3.19.4).

Well, that works. For her. It also has a complete disregard for the safety of anyone around her.

One of the last things Rachel does in her final chapter is to think of this book again, one more offensive instance about how to survive a falling elevator: "Try to climb up on the person nearby so their body will cushion your landing" (5.1.21).

Um, that does not sound okay to us. For Rachel, though, it makes perfect sense. This book is so tuned to her way of looking at the world that we're frankly surprised she didn't write it. That's what Rachel is all about: sailing through life on the hard work of everyone else, and, when the going gets rough, sacrificing anyone else for her own survival.

Hm, our comic relief character isn't that funny anymore.