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The Lacuna: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver

The Lacuna: A Novel (edition 2009)

by Barbara Kingsolver

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3,9952281,281 (3.86)1 / 591
Title:The Lacuna: A Novel
Authors:Barbara Kingsolver
Info:Harper (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 528 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Recently added byprivate library, Rena37, top10, alo1224, nate48281, momnrod, florasuncle, zoodujour
  1. 110
    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (GreenVelvet)
  2. 71
    The Bean Trees | Animal Dreams | Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver (readerbabe1984)
  3. 40
    Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: It is set in Mexico and deals, obliquely and amusingly, with women's rights.
  4. 10
    Any Human Heart by William Boyd (lizchris)
    lizchris: A fictional character who encounters real people from history across their lifetime.
  5. 11
    Sonntagsträumerei in der Alameda by Bodo Uhse (edwinbcn)

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Showing 1-5 of 227 (next | show all)
Barbara Kingsolver is one of those authors that I avoided for a long time because of the very snobby idea that an author that popular couldn't be very good, i.e. very literary. I'm so glad I took a chance because I've loved all of the books I've read by her. She is gifted at creating characters you care about and using interesting settings. That makes her easy to read and popular, but her books are not at all common, light, or simple.

In The Lacuna, she delves into a young man named Harrison Shepherd through his diaries which are compiled by V.B. (later we learn this is Violet Brown). Shepherd is the son of an American father and Mexican mother. At age 12, his mother leaves his father and takes him with her to Mexico, where they live in a string of locations following her boyfriend of the moment. When he strikes out on his own, he ends up as cook, aide, and eventually friend to Diego Rivera, the famous muralist, and Frida Kahlo, the famous painter. He and Frida have a close relationship and it resurfaces throughout the novel, even after he leaves Mexico. He moves back to America, to Asheville, N.C., after a traumatic incident involving Trotsky (yes, Trotsky) and begins writing historical fiction novels. His ties with the Communists during his time in Mexico come back to haunt him as the McCarthy Era begins.

Normally I don't give that much of a plot summary, but the history really shapes Shepherd's life in this book. Somehow even with all the famous characters and true history drama, Kingsolver usually manages to keep the focus on Harrison Shepherd and his internal life. The symbolism in the book is subtle and deep and the characterizations are very believable.

I thought at times that the history overwhelmed the main character just a little bit, but I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. ( )
  japaul22 | May 24, 2017 |
This book had great moments, but there were also times where the writing was stiff and dragged a little. I love Kingsolver's book, but this one was not as good as her others. It was still a pleasure to read though. ( )
  bound2books | Feb 12, 2017 |
Honest, timely, and poignant. This book didn't seize me the way Kingsolver's normally do, but it has a unique method of telling a story that I greatly appreciate. ( )
  StefanieBrookTrout | Feb 4, 2017 |
Kingsolver makes me nutty because she is so preachy, even though I am sure we are on the same page politically. I found this to be kind of an odd book - kind of dull in places and true-to-form earnest by the end. Still, I liked the middle when the character first moves to Asheville and there is something that happens that I found tremendously moving and it even made me cry. So there's that I guess.

I know I am in the minority about Kingsolver but there you have it. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
I expected to dislike this book as I had found The Poisonwood Bible a bit of a disappointment. However, it was, in fact, a wonderful story. I really loved it from start to finish. I found the characters, real and fictional, to be very believable and followed their lives with great interest. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Oct 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 227 (next | show all)
Kingsolver, at the top of her craft, builds pyramids of language and scenic highways through mountains of facts, while plotting a mostly tight course through the fictional premises that convey her writing’s social conscience. In this book, pacifism, social justice, and free expression are the standards she shoulders.
added by Shortride | editBookforum, Celia McGee (Dec 1, 2009)
“The Lacuna” can be enjoyed sheerly for the music of its passages on nature, archaeology, food and friendship; or for its portraits of real and invented people; or for its harmonious choir of voices. But the fuller value of Kingsolver’s novel lies in its call to conscience and connection.
Barbara Kingsolver's new novel, "The Lacuna," is the most mature and ambitious one she's written during her celebrated 20-year career, but it's also her most demanding. Spanning three decades, the story comes to us as a collection of diary entries and memoir, punctuated by archivist's notes, newspaper articles, letters, book reviews and congressional transcripts involving some of the 20th century's most radical figures. The sweetness that leavened "The Bean Trees" and "Animal Dreams" has been burned away, and the lurid melodrama that enlivened "The Poisonwood Bible" has been replaced by the cool realism of a narrator who feels permanently alienated from the world.
A serious problem with The Lacuna is telegraphed in its striking title. "Lacuna" refers to a gap or something that's absent. The motif of the crucial missing piece runs throughout the novel, but the thing unintentionally missing here is an engaging main character. Our hero, Harrison Shepherd, is an accidental onlooker to history buffeted by other people's plans and passions.
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.
added by khuggard | editPublishers Weekly
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In the beginning were the howlers.
A novel! Why do you say this won't liberate anyone? Where does any man go to be free, whether he is poor or rich or even in prison? To Dostoyevsky! To Gogol!
The most important thing about a person is always the thing you don't know.
Does a man become a revolutionary out of the belief he’s entitled to joy rather than submission?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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.
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"The story of Harrison William Shepherd, a man caught between two worlds -- Mexico and the United States in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s -- and whose search for identity takes readers to the heart of the twentieth century's most tumultuous events"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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