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The Lacuna (P.S.)by Barbara Kingsolver
2010 Orange Prize
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.
"A work that is often close to magic....Much research underlies this complex weaving...but the work is lofted by lyric prose." Denver Post
"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." Washington Post
"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." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"[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." People
"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's] playful pastiche brings to vivid life the culture wars of an earlier era." Vogue
"Rich...impassioned...engrossing...Politics and art dominate the novel, and their overt, unapologetic connection is refreshing." Chicago Tribune
"[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
"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." Philadelphia Inquirer
"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 sweeping narrative of utopian dreams and political reality....A stirring novel...intimate and pitch-perfect." San Diego Union-Tribune
"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
"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." Seattle Times
"Kingsolver deftly combines real history and the life of the fictional protagonist....A sweeping tale." Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Breathtaking...dazzling...The Lacuna can be enjoyed shearly 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
"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
In this powerfully imagined, provocative novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is the poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as well as an unforgettable portrait of the artist — and of art itself.
About the Author
Barbara Kingsolver is the author of seven works of fiction, including the novels The Poisonwood Bible, Animal Dreams, and The Bean Trees, as well as books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction. Her most recent book 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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