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The Lacuna Book
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Editor04 August 2010
I absolutely devoured this story. It is thoughtfully presented in diary entries and letters from Harrison, that cover ordinary matters of daily living and Harrisons development from childhood through to independence; his experiences of love and sexuality; friendships and relationships; employment and cultural influences, within a political landscape that covers American and Mexican political history from the great depression to the beginning of the Cold War. The character of Harrison develops from a self contained undemanding boy who attempts to please his mother by essentially staying out of her way unless she needs him to be there, to a sensitive, warm and witty young man who pleases others by feeding them a diet of good food and good words. His complete lack of political guile makes him such an interesting vessel for steering this story, which is essentially based around the life and passions of others. The intriguing characters are not merely incidental, and the plot is beautifully played out around their colourfully creative and revolutionary leanings. Their involvement within a global class of artistic intellectuals, who are genuine comrades rather than merely useful to each other, is apparent through their shared values, freedom of expression, and respect of the rights of the person who is willing to labour in the service of others.
What I love about Kingsolver's writing is her ability to get so much out through the vessel of one thoroughly absorbing character. She does it with Orleanna Price in the Poisonwood Bible, and again here with Harrison Shepherd . In one sense, they are victims of the decisions of others, but she manages to make them into unassuming heroes, whose own graciousness is aspirational. Others around them can see more of their qualities, than if fact they can see of themselves, and just when you think that life has offered them a cruel fate, she manages to create an ingenious and plausible twist. I want her to come to dinner to discuss how she does this, but I expect to be intimidated by her extraordinary ability.
This review would not be complete by saying something of the ultimate character in this book; an inanimate object that is the ultimate vehicle for this fascinating story (sorry for the vagary - avoiding spoilers). It is to this objects protector that credit for recognising the value of truth must be attributed. She recognised that through care of a seemingly unimportant object, she was preserving history.
I cannot praise this book highly enough. Read it! Additionally, Kingsolver alludes to the paintings of Frida Kahlo; if you get the opportunity to see an exhibition, they are as fascinating as descriptions in the book suggest.
Born in the US and reared in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd is a liability to his social-climbing flapper mother, Salome. Making himself useful in the household of the famed Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and exiled Bolshevik leader Lev Trotsky, young Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution.
The Lacuna is the heartbreaking story of a man's search for safety of a man torn between the warm heart of Mexico and the cold embrace of 1950s McCarthyite America. Born in the U.S. and reared in Mexico Harrison Shepherd is a liability to his social-climbing flapper mother Salome. Making himself useful in the household of the famed Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and exiled Bolshevik leader Lev Trotsky young Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution. A violent upheaval sends him north to a nation newly caught up in World War II. In the mountain city of Asheville North Carolina he remakes himself in America's hopeful image. But political winds continue to throw him between north and south in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach - the lacuna - between truth and public presumption. A gripping story of identity loyalty and the devastating power of accusations to destroy innocent people "The Lacuna" is as deep and rich as the New World.
Tells the heartbreaking story of a man torn between the warm heart of Mexico and the cold embrace of 1950s America in the shadow of Senator McCarthy. From Pulitzer Prize nominee and award winning author of Homeland, The Poisonwood Bible and Flight...
- Barbara Kingsolver
- 22 April 2010
- Faber and Faber
- Paperback (Book)
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