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 Mexicofrom a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico CityHarrison 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 breachthe lacunabetween 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 artistand 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.
Mexico, 1929 - 1931
Isla Pixol, Mexico, 1929
In the beginning were the howlers. They always commenced their bellowing in the first hour of dawn, just as the hem of the sky began to whiten. It would start with just one: his forced, rhythmic groaning, like a saw blade. That aroused others near him, nudging them to bawl along with his monstrous tune. Soon the maroon-throated howls would echo back from other trees, farther down the beach, until the whole jungle filled with roaring trees. As it was in the beginning, so it is every morning of the world.
The boy and his mother believed it was saucer-eyed devils screaming in those trees, fighting over the territorial right to consume human flesh. The first year after moving to Mexico to stay at Enriques house, they woke up terrified at every days dawn to the howling. Sometimes she ran down the tiled hallway to her sons bedroom, appearing in the doorway with her hair loose, her feet like iced ...
I have read every novel by Barbara Kingsolver and I love them all. Her writing is literary, lyrical and relevant - but that's not the reason for my deep affection. It's because she is a woman of heart and mind who is unafraid of using her mind to reveal her heart. [This] story moved me to laughter, outrage, anxiety, but mostly to tears. It is overall a very sad tale. When I closed the book, I simply could not move.
(Reviewed by Judy Krueger).
Full Review (934 words).
Trotsky in Mexico
Kingsolver's fictional protagonist, Harrison Shepherd, spends much of his life brushing up against the lives of real people, including the Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera who played host to Leon Trotsky in the 1930s. Undoubtedly, you know of Trotsky, Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist, but did you know that he spent the last years of his life exiled in Mexico?
The story of his exile starts with the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924. Although Lenin had appointed Joseph Stalin General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party he had grown distrustful of him and had come to favor Trotsky as his successor, and had even written a letter ...
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