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Customer Review

706 of 738 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is Literature with a capital L, October 27, 2009
This review is from: The Lacuna: A Novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Plot Summary: In a story told entirely through diary entries and letters, we meet Harrison William Shepherd, a half-Mexican, half-American boy who grows up with his mother in Mexico. He has no education, but his love of reading and writing nurtures his own inner dialog that leads to his success as a writer. But that's getting ahead of the story. First he passes his adolescence working for some of Mexico's most infamous residents in the 1930s - Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Lev Trotsky. His break with Mexico is abrupt, and Shepherd moves to America where he embarks on a writing career with the assistance of his invaluable stenographer, Mrs. Violet Brown.

I've spent the past two days in close communion with this novel, and it has moved me deeply. It's not often that I abandon popular literature for the big fish, but Barbara Kingsolver is one of the few authors whose writing entertains me in all forms - novels, essays and non-fiction. I suppose I'm like a book groupie, following her whether she's spinning yarns in the Southwest, or matter of factly walking me through slaughter day when her chicken's days are numbered. Make no mistake, her latest effort is Literature with a capital L, and the story is so poignant it could make a stone weep in sympathy. And weep I did. Frequently.

When a novel covers a person's life, from the beginning to the end, it takes on an epic flavor by default. Harrison Shepherd's life could be considered epic even if it was condensed down to a three paragraph obituary. It's an extraordinary tale told during haunting times in both Mexico and the U.S. I regret that I don't know as much as I should about the history before, during, and after World War II, but I will use this novel as a crutch for my shoddy memory. This is history refracted through a miniscule lens; a tiny dot that represents the life of a boy who becomes a man.

It's a scary proposition trying to populate a work of fiction with famous dead people. I don't know if Ms. Kingsolver got it all right, although I don't doubt that her research was extensive, however it doesn't matter. She brought everyone back to life in full color, so bright and blinding it almost hurt my eyes. I will always carry around these portraits of Frida and Trotsky, along with Shepherd and Violet Brown. They are permanently inked onto my imagination.
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 29, 2009 9:37:40 AM PDT
Sally says:
I love your comment on following Barbara Kingsolver through the southwest and through "slaughter day." I loved Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I agree, I would read anything Barbara Kingsolver writes. Only she can make zucchini and turkey mating informative and laugh out loud funny at the same time. Cannot wait to read her new book.

Posted on Nov 23, 2009 5:01:12 PM PST
sarahshak says:
Storytelling at its finest is what Barbara Kingsolver serves up perfectly every time. I usually don't like reading a novel based on journal writings, but Kingsolver has crafted this one with enough interest and angst to keep it moving. The sad, sweet boy is brought to us and opened up for our full view so we can feel his loneliness and pain and resignation. I don't see how it's possible not to admire this work and become drawn into an unusual life in two countries in flux.

Posted on Mar 26, 2010 4:31:05 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 26, 2010 4:36:43 PM PDT
I adored this book, just as you did. After I read it, I re-watched the film "Frida," which brings many of the people and places in the book to life. You know that Kingsolver's research was accurate when you watch this movie. You will see the "blue house," the double-house, the pyramid that Frida climbed, and much more. Do rent this film!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2010 3:26:53 AM PDT
Joyce says:
Beautifully stated. You express the lovely essence of this wonderful book better than I did, and with fewer words. JBS

Posted on Jun 3, 2010 3:30:17 AM PDT
Joyce says:
Thank You, Rebecca, for this thoughtful review. I must admit I can't fit your appreciation of it with your website title. Amazing. jbs

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2010 3:33:09 AM PDT
Joyce says:
Thank You Helen Bennett. My step-son, when he heard me raving about The Lacuna, has promised to send me a copy of the film. Your reiview of it makes it even more enticing. I can't wait!


In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2010 6:55:36 AM PDT
Mrs. Baumann says:
Hello Plom,
Many thanks for your comment. The name of my blog is a bit of a joke, because I read so many romances, but I do enjoy all kinds of books, and Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors.

Posted on Jun 7, 2011 5:15:51 PM PDT
I am in the process of listening to this novel as audiobook, read by Barbara Kingsolver herself, and she acts the part of each of the main characters so vividly that I even prefer it to reading the book, which I have as well. I admire Kingsolver´s ability to weave meaningful events throughout the story, and give them the same significance under different circumstances, such as "the mouth of the tunnel" as a place to enter that bears no assurance of being able to exit it, a place that somehow links to the past, and the notion of which keeps appearing along the story.
Her account of Shepherd´s period in Mexico shows keen insight into the differences between two cultures, seen through eyes that have had contact with both worlds. I found the episode where he describes the relationship that Mexican people have with their dead, in comparison to the North American equivalent, and the implications as to the way North American people view what is "unamerican", very meaningful indeed!
I entirely agree with Rebecca Baumann´s conclusion as to the permanence within me of the portraits of Frida, Lev, Harrison Shepherd and Violet Brown, so enriched by their manner of speech thanks to the wonderful acting of the author herself. Thank you for this gift, Barbara Kingsolver.

Posted on Jul 6, 2011 11:51:15 AM PDT
Joyce says:
I love anything from Barbara Kingsolver! And this review is definitely on target. Anything she writes I want and love. My favorite is Prodigal Summer. Second favorite is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I would be a groupie if I knew how!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 3, 2014 6:11:34 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 3, 2014 6:13:33 PM PST
F. Henley says:
Certainly the reading by Kingsolver was good. How she was given the Orange award is beyond me since she didn't flatter the British Empire and certainly not Churchill. She thoroughly grasped the deaths of people who loved their country and each other as tragic for the people not so much for the persons dying. The Stalin/Lenin story was well told. Lacuna would be a good substitute for most history teachers' instruction and is useful in showing how the assassinations of leaders can be in play for years before being accomplished.
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