The Lacuna

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

The-LacunaThe Lacuna covers about 30 years of American and Mexican history through the life of Harrison Sheperd, a half-Mexican, half-American boy raised in Mexico who becomes an author. This is his life story, told through his journals, covering his time as a cook in the household of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, the Bonus Army riots, Leon Trotsky’s exile in Mexico, the war effort in Ashville, NC, and finally the McCarthy trials. Sometimes Shepherd’s life seems like a way to string together these interesting moments in history, but for the most part he and the other non-historical characters are compelling enough to drive the narrative on their own. Kingsolver wears her politics on her sleeve, as always. She presents Trotsky’s death as a tragedy, and suggests communism might have worked out if he’d been in charge of the USSR instead of Stalin. Everyone now agrees that the McCarthy trials were ridiculously unjust, so they are perhaps an easy target for liberal outrage. But the protagonist’s reflective voice softens any agenda the author may have had and provides an ample spoonful of sugar to accompany the political message, which I agreed with for the most part anyway. It’s a long book, but engrossing. Kingsolver read the audiobook herself and did an impressive job with the various accents, Spanish and Appalachian.

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One thought on “The Lacuna

  1. Kudos to you for enjoying this! I tried, but boredom overwhelmed me and I had to give up. Plus I think communism as a theory is inherently flawed, and never works unless those who want it come together to make it work, and the door is always open for the people who turn against it to leave. I’ve never known it to be successful unless it is practiced in very small groups, and no one is pressured to stay once they’ve decided to leave. But I do love Barbara Kingsolver like crazy. I just wasn’t a fan of this novel.

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