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The Lacunaby Barbara Kingsolver
2010 Orange Prize
Waiting for a new Kingsolver novel has been like waiting for a favorite restaurant to reopen after renovations, only it's been nine years of anticipation. With the grand depth of The Poisonwood Bible, The Lacuna tells of historical and intercultural intrigue, amidst relationships that unfold slowly, drawing out their flavors. Kingsolver's research rewards us with accurate representations of exciting historical figures. Her themes of social change have a timeless relevance. It's a pleasure to be immersed once again in the kaleidoscope of Barbara Kingsolver's imagination and skill.
"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." Celia McGee, Bookforum (read the entire Bookforum review)
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Rich...impassioned...engrossing...Politics and art dominate the novel, and their overt, unapologetic connection is refreshing." Chicago Tribune
"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
"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
In her first novel in nine years, New York Times-bestselling author Kingsolver tells the story of Harrison William Shepherd, an unforgettable protagonist whose search for identity takes readers to the heart of the 20th century's most tumultuous events.
About the Author
Barbara Kingsolver is the author of seven works of fiction, including the novels The Lacuna, The Poisonwood Bible, Animal Dreams, and The Bean Trees, as well as books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction. Her most recent work of nonfiction is the enormously influential bestseller Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Kingsolver's work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned literary awards and 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 lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.
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