In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities. Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico-from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City-Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence. Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America's hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. He finds support from an unlikely kindred soul, his stenographer, Mrs. Brown, who will be far more valuable to her employer than he could ever know. Through darkening years, political winds continue to toss him between north and south in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach-the lacuna-between truth and public presumption.With deeply compelling characters, a vivid sense of place, and a clear grasp of how history and public opinion can shape a life, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable portrait of the artist-and of art itself. The Lacuna is a rich and daring work of literature, establishing its author as one of the most provocative and important of her time.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
Kingsolver's ambitious new novel, her first in nine years (after the The Poisonwood Bible), focuses on Harrison William Shepherd, the product of a divorced American father and a Mexican mother. After getting kicked out of his American military academy, Harrison spends his formative years in Mexico in the 1930s in the household of Diego Rivera; his wife, Frida Kahlo; and their houseguest, Leon Trotsky, who is hiding from Soviet assassins. After Trotsky is assassinated, Harrison returns to the U.S., settling down in Asheville, N.C., where he becomes an author of historical potboilers (e.g., Vassals of Majesty) and is later investigated as a possible subversive. Narrated in the form of letters, diary entries and newspaper clippings, the novel takes a while to get going, but once it does, it achieves a rare dramatic power that reaches its emotional peak when Harrison wittily and eloquently defends himself before the House Un-American Activities Committee (on the panel is a young Dick Nixon). "Employed by the American imagination," is how one character describes Harrison, a term that could apply equally to Kingsolver as she masterfully resurrects a dark period in American history with the assured hand of a true literary artist. (Nov.)
Showing 1-4 of the 4 most recent reviews
1 . Disappointed
Posted October 08, 2010 by Lab girl , Waterloo OntarioI was surprisingly disappointed in this latest Kingsolver book. The writing is excellent, as usual, but I kept waiting to get carried away by the story and characters which is the case with her other books. It just did not happen, and usually Kingsolver just sweeps me away for an afternoon at a time. This is the first book of hers that did not captivate. I could find little empathy with the main character, and just could not find the circumstances of his engagement with historical non-fictional people realistic or engaging.
2 . Awesome
Posted April 25, 2010 by Janis , Carbon Canyon, CAGreat characters woven into interesting history. A long, enjoyable read, was sorry when it ended.
3 . Amazing!
Posted February 18, 2010 by Jenn , SKThis book is so well written. It is full of history, people, and words that you want to remember forever. The characters are so intriguing. I loved reading this book.
4 . Excellent Read
Posted February 08, 2010 by Carmen , san antonioLove it! It's intelligent and entertaining. You can read in all Ms. Kindsolver's books an honest concern and care for human life and dignity, above race, nationality, religion, or any other difference.
November 02, 2009
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