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The Lacuna: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – July 20, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
The story opens in 1929 and ends in 1951. Harrison William Shepherd (a fictional character) born in the US to a US father and a Mexican mother, is a child in Mexico. Since his parents are both disinterested in parenting, he makes his own way in life. First he is a cook/secretary in the household of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, then for Bolshevik/Marxist Revolutionary Leon Trotsky during his exile in Mexico. After Trotsky is assassinated, Shepherd is encouraged by Kahlo to move to the US where he finally becomes what he was meant to be; an author of historical fiction.
The backbone of the story is the Communist/Worker's Movement in Mexico & the US and Rivera, Kahlo & Trotsky's part in it. They provide the political dialogue for the relationship of US politics and art. Kingsolver imagines what it would have been like living in these households during this turbulent period. The story culminates with Shepherd being called before the US Committee on Un-American Activities. But the story is about so much more than politics and history.
If you are an admirer of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, reading this book will be like contemplating their art. The story mirrors the politics and history portrayed in Rivera's murals and the pain and beauty of Kahlo's paintings.
If you enjoy reading historical fiction, this is a beautifully written example.
Update: 6/10/10 Barbara Kingsolver was awarded the Orange Prize for Fiction for "The Lacuna". The Orange prize was started in 1996 to recognize female fiction writers around the world.
"The Lacuna" is the memoir-of-sorts of Harrison Wiliam Shepherd, an author caught between two very different worlds. As a young boy, his Mexican mother drags him back to her native country as she pursues any wealthy man who is willing to take her on as a mistress. Years later, he is sent to live with his father, a man he does not even know, before returning to Mexico where he finds himself in the employ of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. His association with these two famous artists brings him in contact with Trotsky, on exile from Stalinist Russia, who continues Shepherd's odd education in the school of life experiences. When events turn sour in Mexico, Shepherd returns to the United States, fulfilling his dream of becoming a beloved author, only to have to confront his past and the words he has never said during the Red Scare of the 1950s. His story is told in his own words, his diary entries and letters, some too private to lay bare, and by the words of his secretary who takes it upon herself to compile his life's narrative.
The sheer amount of history that Kingsolver is able to plausibly mix into Shepherd's story is incredible, and all of it believable.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fabulous book. I kernel much about the history of the U.S. and Mexico during that time period. On my top 10 book list!Published 1 month ago by Carol Concha
Kingsolver is a genius. Historic content that is applicable today. Insightful.Published 1 month ago by Susan LaBrier
My favorite Kingsolver book so far! For those of us with interests in Mexico and 20th century political history, this is a story well told.Published 1 month ago by Robin J Steinberg
Once again, Barbara kingsolver has written a book that amazed me, put a whole new perspective on the past, on world figures and paranoia after WWII.Published 1 month ago by Viji Sashikant
So many beautifully written ideas! The plot engages the whole time.Published 2 months ago by Elizabeth K. Shouba