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.
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).
NPR - Maureen Corrigan
Harrison is so pallid, so retiring that it's very hard to stay for extended periods in his company, and seeing history unfold from his wan point of view isn't all that illuminating... To me, The Lacuna is an all too appropriate title for a novel that feels altogether vacant.
The Los Angeles Times
After some lyrical but unconvincing early scenes, the first half of the novel builds to page-turning tension... But there is no enigma. The good guys wear white hats, the villains black. This book grabs at the heartstrings, and you would give it to a 13-year-old without hesitation... except for that nagging problem of historical truth.
A richly satisfying portrait of Mexico gives way to a preachy, padded and predictable chronicle of Red Scare America.
...the novel can be slow going, but the final section ... builds to a stunningly moving coda...
Publishers Weekly (Pick of the Week)
Starred Review. [Kingsolver] masterfully resurrects a dark period in American history with the assured hand of a true literary artist.
As in The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver perfects the use of multiple points of view ... This is her most ambitious, timely, and powerful novel yet. Well worth the wait.
The Independent (UK)
Every few years, you read a book that makes everything else in life seem unimportant. The Lacuna is the first book in a long time that made me swap my bike for public transport, just so I could keep reading.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Dorothy T. Nothing is missing here Barbara Kingsolver is an amazing author. If you liked "The Poisonwood Bible" you will also want to read this new novel. It reads so much like truth you might be tempted to look up the main character Harrison Shepherd on the internet. I... Read More
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 to that effect.
However, on Lenin's death, Stalin manouvered quickly to consolidate his power and Trotsky found himself on the back foot.
Trotsky continued to battle for leadership as the de facto leader of the Left Opposition, a faction within the Communist Party, until he was expelled from the...
'Combining an unerring instinct for telling detail with the broader brushstrokes you need to tackle issues of culture and politics, Patchett creates a remarkably compelling chronicle of a multinational group of the rich and powerful held hostage for months.'
Research shows that 90% of Americans value public libraries(Dec 11 2013) According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 90% of Americans aged 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an...