Indie Next ListNovember 2009
Moving from a setting in Mexico (in the company of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Trotsky) to the 1950s America of Red Scares and McCarthyism, The Lacuna tells the very personal and human story of young novelist Harrison Shepherd. Kingsolver does a masterful job creating a story with both scope and intimacy while also raising potent questions about freedom of expression and belief. Bravo! -- Sheryl Cotleur, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
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.
About the Author
Barbara Kingsolver's work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned a devoted readership at home and abroad. In 2000 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country's highest honor for service through the arts. She received the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work, and in 2010 won Britain's Orange Prize for The Lacuna. Before she made her living as a writer, Kingsolver earned degrees in biology and worked as a scientist. She now lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.
Praise for The Lacuna…
“Rich…impassioned…engrossing…Politics and art dominate the novel, and their overt, unapologetic connection is refreshing.”
“Masterful…a reader receives the great gift of entering not one but several worlds…The final pages haunt me still.”
-San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
“Compelling…Kingsolver’s descriptions of life in Mexico City burst with sensory detail—thick sweet breads, vividly painted walls, the lovely white feet of an unattainable love.”
-The New Yorker
“A work that is often close to magic.... Much research underlies this complex weaving...but the work is lofted by lyric prose.”
“Shepherd’s story in Kingsolver’s accomplished literary hands is so seductive, the prose so elegant, the architecture of the novel so imaginative, it becomes hard to peel away from the book”
“[Kingsolver’s] playful pastiche brings to vivid life the culture wars of an earlier era...”
“...True and riveting...Barbara Kingsolver has invented a wondrous filling here, sweeter and thicker than pan dulce, spicy as the hottest Mexican chiles, paranoid as the American government hunting Communists ”
“A sweeping mural of sensory delights and stimulating ideas about art, government, identity and history…Readers will feel the sting of connection between then and now.”
“A sweeping narrative of utopian dreams and political reality…A stirring novel…intimate and pitch-perfect.”
-San Diego Union-Tribune
“Kingsolver deftly combines real history and the life of the fictional protagonist…A sweeping tale.”
“The most mature and ambitious [novel] she’s written…An absorbing portrayal of American life…A rich novel [with] a large, colorful canvas…A tender story about a thoughtful man.”
“A lavishly gifted writer... Kingsolver [has a] wonderful ear for the quirks of human repartee. The Lacuna is richly spiked with period language... This book grabs at the heartstrings...”
-Los Angeles Times
“Breathtaking...dazzling...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...But the fuller value...lies in its call to conscience and connection.”
-New York Times Book Review
“The novel achieves a rare dramatic power...Kingsolver masterfully resurrects a dark period in American history with the assured hand of a true literary artist.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[Kingsolver] hasn’t lost her touch...she delivers her signature blend of exotic locale, political backdrop and immediately engaging story line...teems with dark beauty.”
“[Kingsolver] stirs the real with the imagined to produce a breathtakingly ambitious book, bold and rich…hopeful, political and artistic. The Lacuna fills a lacuna with powerfully imagined social history
-Kansas City Star