The Lacuna

The Lacuna

by Barbara Kingsolver, Tbd (Read by)

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In The Lacuna, her first novel in nine years, Barbara Kingsolver, the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of The Poisonwood Bible and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, tells the story of Harrison William Shepherd, a man caught between two worlds—an unforgettable protagonist whose search for identity will take readers to the heart of the twentieth century’s most tumultuous events.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060853563
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/03/2009
Edition description: Unabridged
Pages: 16
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 5.80(h) x 2.20(d)

About the Author

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of nine bestselling works of fiction, including the novels, Flight Behavior, The Lacuna, The Poisonwood Bible, Animal Dreams, and The Bean Trees, as well as books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction. Her work of narrative 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. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts, as well as the prestigious Dayton Literary Peace Prize for her body of work. She lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of nine bestselling works of fiction, including the novels, Flight Behavior, The Lacuna, The Poisonwood Bible, Animal Dreams, and The Bean Trees, as well as books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction. Her work of narrative 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. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts, as well as the prestigious Dayton Literary Peace Prize for her body of work. She lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

Date of Birth:

April 8, 1955

Place of Birth:

Annapolis, Maryland


B.A., DePauw University, 1977; M.S., University of Arizona, 1981

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The Lacuna 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 454 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a fantastic read from start to finish. I think this may be her best book yet. I am a huge fan of Kingsolver's fiction, but I think this one has the best character portrayals. When I heard the premise of the plot I thought it would be rather staged or forced. But Frida Kahlo is so wonderfully imagined in this book, I found myself wanting to reconsider my formerly negative opinion of her paintings. Why? I guess because Kingsolver made me see them from a new perspective. I realize that it is fiction, but somehow I never "got" Kahlo until I read this novel. Now I realize she was probably like a lot of the women in my life: strong, hard to like, easy to admire, full of kick ass rebellion, and uniquely beautiful but also a very jealous, protective person. Once I finished the novel I actually decided I needed to go see some of her paintings and look at them again. I also laughed out loud at some of the descriptions of things like Bauhaus architecture as seen through Kahlo's eyes and noted down by the protagonist in his fictional diaries. This was true of many of the other characters as well; suddenly the idea of Rivera as this bumbling, charismatic, frustrating man was so intense to me that I felt as if I had actually met him. Kingsolver makes each of the "famous" people in this book come to life that way. The small details of their appearance are so vividly imagined that you feel as if you were at a party with all of them, or shared a house one summer during college. Kingsolver does not disappoint. I had no idea where she was taking us until the last chapter. Just like real life, the twists and turns of the plot were so unexpected, but then once I had gotten to the end I looked back and said: oh, of course that is what happened. I think that may be the mark of a really good book. Great book to read in the winter, especially if there is a huge blizzard out your window and you want to just get away. Although this is not an escapist fantasy, the setting is so beautifully drawn that you will be whisked away to the azure waters of Mexico, or stand atop the Mayan ruins and forget the snow outside that falls. Thanks, Kingsolver, for this wonderful novel.
mouliin More than 1 year ago
Decided to quit at page 78. I have enjoyed every previous book of this author, especially the mezmerizing 'Poisonwood Bible', but in this novel many, many pages are just pretentious, tedious and egotistical ramblings. There are so many better books out right now to spend my time with.
marjo More than 1 year ago
Starts a little slow, but the action and characters come to life when Hoover, Frida, Diego, and Trotsky come on the scene. This is a great book and a wonderful, interesting read -- colorful fiction, based on historical facts -- better than being there. Don't miss it!
harstan More than 1 year ago
His father is an American who has nothing to do with him; his mother is a Mexican who sort of raised him, but parenting was not her gig. Thus early on, Harrison William Shepherd learned to take care of himself as he grew up in Mexico without the benefit of schooling. He found books and loved reading; self taught of course. He begins writing as an adolescent; claiming his work is that of Mexican notorieties like artists Rivera and Kahlo, and Russian Bolshevik exile Trotsky; eventually he meets some of his heroes. When his hero Trotsky is assassinated allegedly by another Bolshevik, Harrison heeds the advice of Kahlo to flee for America to become a full time writer. He authors historical fiction while supporting the Communist Worker's Movement in North America until 1951when the Congressional Committee on Un-American Activities orders him to testify. The Lacuna is a an intriguing historical epic that uses diaries and memoirs to tell the tale of the Communist movement in Mexico and the United States starting from the Great Depression until the McCarthy hearings. The story line is very deep as the audience sees into the souls of the two artists (and their works) as well as to a lesser degree Trotsky amongst other leading lights in the North American "heyday" of Communism. Although the pace is slow and never accelerates, the story line is insightful and in many ways cautionary as Barbara Kingsolver provides a powerful look at two decades in American and Mexican history that has reverberations with today's recession. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I forced myself to stick with this one, given my enthusiasm for Ms. Kingsolver's previous novels. The first half was tough - what kept me going was her telling of the history of Mexico, the relationships between Shepard, Violet, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Lev Trotsky...and all the other characters. The last half kept my interest. I'd recommend only if you're a diehard Kingsolver fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so looking forward to this book. I've enjoyed Kingsolver's earlier work. I didn't recognize her voice in The Lacuna. It read like Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende but without the humor or depth of character. I couldn't finish the book. Others have told me that "it has its slow parts" but the entire first half? Disappointing.
HeyJude More than 1 year ago
Although Kingsolver's style of writing is attractive--and she clearly does her research--this story was sort of "so what?" for me. I could easily put this book down for several days at a time (and did) without feeling drawn to pick it up and keep going. The last half was better than the first (i.e., once Shepherd came to the US). Overall, it was just so-so. Definitely NOT one of my all-time favorites as "The Poisonwood Bible" was.
JeepLadySue More than 1 year ago
The Lacuna treats familiar themes in some very predictable ways. Those who prefer history "straight" with no fictional inventions will likely find The Lacuna disappointing. Readers who like their fiction to be exactly that - pure invention - will undoubtedly find the sections with Rivera/Kahlo, Trotsky, Stalin, HUAC (all real) intrusive. The most lively and exciting sections are those that are Kingsolver's creation entirely: the protagonist's Mexican mother, a female Cortes, whose efforts to successfully sniff out men and their gold eludes her; the protagonist's early successes as a writer, who sets female hearts aflame inadvertently' and the relationship between the protagonist and his "shrinking Violet" stenographer. These don't occur until two-thirds of the way through the book and readers must plow through cartoon-like renderings of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and writing that tries its best to make Leon Trotsky and what remains of his family sympathetic. But, as the title of the book suggests, something is missing here. The ending of the book comes as no surprise to this reader; it was clear to me what would occur. How one interprets the literal events at the end depend upon whether or not a reader seeks something happy and tidy or not. And that would mean caring about the characters - or at least caring about the protagonist. Ultimately, this reader did not. Thematically, the book treads heavily on the notion that we can bend, fold, spindle and mutilate history - including personal history - to our own ends. If there is a void, it will be filled and not necessarily by reason or the truth. Kingsolver takes this theme global and offers us an America that energes from WW II cocky and self assured, though woefully wrong-headed almost all of the time. The theme finds its parallels in the writings of Kingsolver's protagonist, who endeavors to share his vision of the Mexican Empire with a reading public that prefers whatever history it encounters to be dipped in blood, lust and power, a Mayan or Aztec bodice-ripper. Ultimately, I found The Lacuna to be well-written and predicated upon vast stores of factual material. But, again, like its title, there is something missing. You've heard this story before - and done better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I kept wondering how she would end this quirky tale. Brilliantly!
mme_bosquet More than 1 year ago
I've been a fan of Barbara Kingsolver since The Bean Trees, and The Lacuna did not disappoint. This book is wonderful in its imagery, language, and story. It is clear that Kingsolver did exhaustive research to create authentic settings and be historically accurate, especially for a work of fiction. The contrast between the settings in the book so perfectly parallels the protagonist's struggle to come to terms with his own two sides. I loved watching this scared, neglected little boy grow to be a resourceful, adventurous young man, and finally into the quiet, reserved writer. Kingsolver masterfully creates an entire cast of players. She never pads her books with extraneous two-dimensional characters whose only purpose is to further a plot line. All of her characters are engaging and real. I felt like I really knew them and connected with them all. Great book.
BillPilgrim More than 1 year ago
Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors, and she did not disappoint me in this novel. She tells the story of revolutionary Mexico in the 1920's and 30's, and of the United States in the 1940's through the diaries and letters of Harrison S, who was born in the U.S. of an American father and a Mexican mother. He moved with his mother to Mexico when his parents separated. We see him as a boy when his mother is trying to snag a rich new husband. He goes to see the muralist Diego Garcia working and ends up mixing his plaster for him. He sees Frida Kalho in the market one day and offers to carry her purchases home for her. These chance events leads to his living in their household as a cook, typist, driver, etc. during the time that they give sanctuary to Trostsky, who is hiding from Stalin's assassins. After Trotsky is killed. Harrison moves to the States, for his own safety. He ends up in Asheville, North Carolina and becomes a famous author writing stories about Mexico's Native American people, but his prior associations, and his own beliefs, come to be, let's say, a disadvantage during the anti-communist hysteria. The book is a mix of fiction and history. It is of course based on actual events, and I was often left wondering how much was fact. The author tries to set this up in the beginning a bit, but not clearly enough for me. I am now left needing to read the source books she cites, but I am sure that I will find those quite enjoyable. I was a little bit wary that I would find the second half of the book less engaging that the portion based in Mexico. In The Poisonwood Bible, I so much more enjoyed the part of the book about the children growing up in the jungle than I did the end part when they were adults. But, that did not occur this time. Harrison's experiences as an author and as a target of the McCarthyites held my interest completely.
AFineFoodie More than 1 year ago
I've tried several times to get past the first hundred pages of this slog, and can't seem to do it. I gave up and gave the book to a friend who liked another Kingsolver book. The author has no hook to draw one in, wanders around without any sense of urgency or, really, even that someone else might be reading it. Buy it when it goes into remainders. At least you'll get your money's worth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read everything to this point that Barbara Kingsolver has written, so when I saw this book out, I didn't even wait to find out what it was about but bought it outright. I delved into it immediately and lost interest almost immediately. I picked this book up three times before I finally gave up. the characters were superficial and one dimensional. the back and forth with the diary writings was distracting, and there was just nothing to keep me turning pages.
CinderCC More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver, so I was excited about reading this one. I haven't quite finished it yet, so I don't know the ending. It's well written, it holds my interest. I loved the parts with Frida Kahlo and about the main character's childhood, was less crazy about the Trotsky section. See for yourself!
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
One of my all-time favorite books is Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, about a family of American missionaries in the Belgian Congo in 1959, about the time of the end of colonialism in Africa. Kingsolver draws the reader into an unfamiliar world, with interesting, yet flawed, characters. Her latest novel, The Lacuna, tells the story of Harrison Shepherd, a young boy born to an American father and Mexican mother. His mother leaves his father to chase after a wealthy landowner in Mexico, with Harrison in tow. Harrison sees a unique woman in a market, and ends up befriending Frida Kahlo before she becomes a famous artist. Harrison shows a talent for mixing plaster, and Frida's lover, Diego Rivera, hires Harrison to work for him. Harrison becomes immersed in their artistic and political world. Artists are notoriously difficult, and Frida and Diego fit that stereotype. Through them, he meets Leo Trotsky, the exiled Russian Communist leader. Trotsky trusts few people, and Harrison becomes one of them, so he works for Trotsky. When Trotsky is murdered in front of him, Harrison heads back to the United States to live. He is an enigma to his neighbors, and even more so after he writes a novel that becomes a best seller. His Communist party ties come back to haunt him as the US government is beginning to ferret out the dangerous Communists in their midst. I read this book for Books in the City Immigrant Stories Challenge and it fits the bill doubly. Shepherd is an immigrant in both of the countries he lived in, and at home in neither. Although born in the US, he spent much of his youth and young adulthood in Mexico, where he was considered a gringo. When he came back to the US, he was unfamiliar with American customs and way of life. He was a man without a country. I enjoyed how Kingsolver used real historical characters and events to tell Harrison's story. I was fairly unfamiliar with Kahlo and Rivera's life and work, and although I knew a little more about Trotsky's life, I learned so much about that period of time, much like I did when I read The Poisonwood Bible. The story is told through the diaries that Shepherd kept, along with some commentary from his secretary, Mrs. Brown, who is a wonderful character. She wanted Shepherd's story to be told, and was unwavering in her loyalty to her boss. My favorite part of the story was Shepherd's fight to clear his name. The parallels between the poisoned, fearful political atmosphere in the 1950's, and the political atmosphere of today are intriguing. Either you are with us or you are against us, and if you are against us, you are not a patriot. All of the name calling on the cable news shows- calling anyone who wants universal health care a socialist, for example- while reading this book, you know the more things change, the more they sadly stay the same. The Lacuna is one of the best books I have read this year. There is so much to ponder and ruminate over, and the historical setting and characters make this novel a dream for history buffs and lovers of great literature.
cherylanniemay More than 1 year ago
While reading "The Lacuna" I found myself viewing again "Frida" and looking at a book I had bought about her life and paintings. As many reviewers have said, it was intriguing the way the story was woven around historical characters. I did realize also, that with today's sensational news stories and 24 hour news, I have come to believe that many of the news stories are exaggerated or distorted and finding the real truth is not always easy. Fifty years ago, we can see that this problem was evidenced in the way news was bent to justify the politics of the time. It was also interesting in how a true "American" was defined. Then the people to be feared were the unChristian unAmerican communists. Now are they the unAmerican, unChristian "terrorists/Muslims" or the "socialist government?" As Kingsolver said in her book, we weren't against communism, we were just anticommunists. Now, once again, aren't we just against what we once again don't understand and what we are told we should be against, because those who are in control are setting the agenda? Is our patriotism being questioned by superpatriots that have made themselves the judges of what is truly American and what is not--of what a true American looks like or what faith he holds? A good book makes you think of questions that we should ask ourselves about our society, and entertain us at the same time."The Lacuna" did both and I applaud the author for the beauty of this book and also for helping me to see that everytime I think our country has gone too far in the wrong direction, there is hope that it will turn around.
Laphroaig More than 1 year ago
... I found this book so convincing and compelling that I looked into whether Harrison Sheperd was a real person, as are Frida, Diego and Lev, just as the HUAC was real. He's a fictional character, it turns out, but had he been a real writer, I'd have looked into his work. I also very much appreciated the skill with which the author wove the notion of "lacuna" into the various parts of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Barbara Kingsolver writes an amazing and thought provoking novel. It is not a fast read, but it spans an era that we do not often hear about. It tackles hard questions about who the villains of the last century really are and who are the innocent victims. I loved how she wove historical characters and actual events. When viewed through the eyes of the main character, they take on a whole new understanding. I thoroughly loved this book.
waynowind More than 1 year ago
Barbara Kingsolver raised my expectations so high with Poisonwood Bible that she'll probably leave me somewhat disappointed with any of her other books. I was very drawn in to the characters in the Lacuna. An original plot line and story. Great ending.It's rare for me to be so satisfied with an ending as I was with the Lacuna. Usually, when I read a great book I hate when it ends.Feels like I've lost a friend. The Lacuna ending was so perfect it was satisfying and I didn't want the story to go on in case it might spoil the ending.
Sherry_in_Redlands More than 1 year ago
From the beautiful proses to the unique and well researched historical figures, I loved everything about this book. I was a bit confused at the beginning of the book, as it began with the main character's journal entries only to be explained later - odd, but it made the presentation of the book unique. I suggested this for my book club because of the intense moral issues and questions it raises. I am looking forward to our discussion!
SuperReaderGirl More than 1 year ago
I will read anything by Barbara Kingsolver. It started with "The Bean Trees" and now I'm hooked. It's not so much the stories she writes, though they are always fascinating, it's the way they are written. I find myself re-reading sentences thinking, "How did she even think to put those words together?!" It's beautiful. The Lacuna gleans a mixed review from this reader. It was decidedly slow-moving. I did not feel any sort of emotional attachment to any of the characters (which is something I tend to enjoy in a novel). Let's just say, it took me about two weeks to read which is generally unheard of! Not exactly a page turner. However,in the end, I can say that I would have to recommend it, especially if you're a Kingsolver fan. The book is written as a series of journal entries, articles and editorial commentary that made it seem like non-fiction-- a form of writing that stands out as one of my favorites-- and takes the reader through the life of Harrison Shepherd, a would-be author who finds himself involved with the real life characters Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Trotsky during the period before, during and after World War Two. Kingsolver's books always have some underlying political commentary (which I generally do not agree with) and this was no different as the book brings the reader into the era of anti-communism and McCarthy. This book had me running to Google to check the facts. If only I had more time at work, I'd be on my way to becoming a cold war expert. Read it...
tinbits More than 1 year ago
"The Lacuna" is one of the best novels I've read in years. Kingsolver has again woven together place, time and character into a fascinating story. The work engages the as a character driven fictional biography, and leads the reader to richly exciting and disturbing vision of 20th century North American history. The image of a lucana, or opening, is established in the first segments of the book as the protagonist, Harrison Shepard, braves the island tides of his Mexican boyhood home to investigate into a mysterious underwater cave opening. The image gains myriad new resonances throughout the novel. His parents, one Mexican, one American, are separated, and his dual nationality becomes an advantage and a burden as he finds refuge and alienation within both. He finishes his education during a short stint in Washington D.C. under the loose protection of his semi-estranged father. It is the early years of the Depression, and he is a witness to the encampment, uprising, and murder by calvary of the unpaid soldiers from WWI, who were demanding their payments from the government. Following this scene, we find him back in Mexico City, where he creates deep friendships with such figures as Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and becomes involved as a typist working for Lev Trotsky, revolutionary in exile. An unstoppable writer, Harrison records all his private thoughts and experiences; given his connections, these form a rich record of fascinating personalities and historical events which Kingsolver paints in her exquisite prose. As the character matures, and the well known events of history moves forward, Shepard, comes to work as a novelist in Asheville, North Carolina. His success as a writer of historical fiction, his history as a member of Trotsky's household, his endless record keeping, and his painful agoraphobia all play a role in creating a climactic confrontation with the forces of Senator McCarthy and his cadre during the 50s. Another character is revealed slowly through the flow of Kingsolver's carefully crafted novel. Violet Brown, first introduced to us as a mysterious set of initials, comes into the writer's life, and becomes his secretary. Her role as doorkeeper of the protagonist's work and legacy proves another lacuna within this rich and provocative work. Deep questions underlie the novel: What is the role of the individual in times of national hardship? What is patriotism? What is the role of the media in shaping the public agenda? What is the role of art, of the artist? How are we responsible to our artists and their works? What is the risk and challenge of genius? I highly recommend this novel, and envy you your discovery of its unfolding mysteries. I will read it again many times in my life.
Mece More than 1 year ago
I have read everything that Kingsolver has written and continue to be amazed at her range and entranced by her use of language. I am a character-driven reader and this book fits exactly. I actually stopped to see if it is fiction as she weaves historical characters with her fictitious main character so well. I actually 'saw' the ending conflict and slowed my reading as I did not want it to happen. And, as a great writer, Kingsolver did not go for the obvious but found a way for me to finish the book without the anticipated stress of 'my ending'. Highly recommended.
jopete More than 1 year ago
In Lacuna Kingsolver masterfully weaves a tale based on the facinating time in which Kahlo and Rivera, Trotsky and McCarthy play pivotal roles in history. Entranced throughout and pleasantly surprised by the ending, I recommend this fine novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite contemporary authors and I was definitely anticipating her new book, The Lacuna. I agree with the other reviews which say that the first half of the book was a little difficult to stick with, but the ending is definitely worth it. It wasn't my favorite Kingsolver novel, but I did enjoy it in the end. The format is also somewhat interesting, given that it is mostly written in the form of letters and journal entries.