Thursday, September 9, 2010

"The Lacuna"

"The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver
507 pages
Published November 2009 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: TLC Book Tours and the publisher

 Young Harrison William Shepherd is living on Isla Pixol in Mexico when we are first introduced to him in Kingsolver's latest book, that follows Shepherd's diaries from 1929 to 1951.  His mother, a selfish woman who never seems to think of the effects on her son, encourages Harrison to begin his first journal when they are living on Isla Pixol and listening to the howler monkeys in the trees at night.

"Their food might be us, mother and son agreed, when they huddled together inside the spiderweb of bedspread, listening to a rising tide of toothsome roars.  You had better write all this in your notebook, she said, the story of what happened to us in Mexico.  So when nothing is left of us but bones, someone will know where we went.  She said to start this way: In the beginning were the aullaros, crying for our blood."

 Harrison's mother had fled the U.S., leaving his father behind in order to begin an affair with a Mexican attache. But she hates it there and Harrison feels invisible to all the people around him with the exception of the home's cook, from whom he learns valuable life lessons.  It's also on Isla Pixol that Harrison discovers the lacuna:
"Not a cave exactly but an opening, like a mouth, that swallows things."
The image of the lacuna recurs throughout the book as Harrison begins his life journey traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico, never really at home in either.  Along the way, Harrison finds himself immersed in the fiasco that was the Hoover administrations handling of the veterans living in a tent city in the middle of Washington D.C., working for Diego Rivera and involved as well with Frida Kahlo and Leo Trotsky, and esconced in Asheville, North Carolina as a writer of sweeping Mexican epics.

Shortly after I had finished Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible,"  Trish wrote me about this tour.  I had my choice of a number of her previous titles in addition to this one.  As much as I loved "The Poisonwood Bible,"  I was willing to read any of Kingsolver's books but was thrilled to have the chance to read this one.  I went into it expecting to love it every bit as much.

Which, as it turns out, I did.  Just in a different way.  Where as "The Poisonwood Bible" pulled me in immediately with it's beautiful writing and amazing story but let me down some toward the end of the book, "The Lacuna" was a slower start for me but once I fell into it, I never felt a let up.  Kingsolver's writing remains beautiful as ever and her knack for dispensing history lessons while telling a story is unparalleled.  There is no doubt that Kingsolver has an opinion on the events that she's writing about but this book felt less preachy to me.   The book is written as though it were the diaries of a real person, something I wasn't sure about when I started the book, but it worked for me.

I'm not prone to read a lot of books by the same author, which the except of Jane Austen, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.  There are just too many great authors out there whose work I want to sample.  But having now read two of Kingsolver's books, I can't imagine that I will not, at some point, feel the need to read more of her books.  They are just that good.

Thanks so much to TLC Book Tours for including me in this tour!


  1. Heard a lot about this book but it still does not do anything for me! I think its the monkeys which are putting me off...

  2. I've enjoyed other of Kingsolver's books, but I didn't really like The Poisonwood Bible (I feel like a heretic or a failed book person admitting that).

    I've been debating if I should try this one, this review is a point in favor of that for me.

  3. I never did read either of these but own them both. Guess I'd better get started. Like you, so many have enjoyed them.

  4. I also loved this book! I want to know more about Frida

    My review ->

  5. I haven't read much by her, but she definitely has a way with language. I'm glad this one worked out for you!

  6. I'm glad you liked this! I also really like Kingsolver, and I have this one but haven't started it yet.

  7. This is one of my very next reads, and I am super excited about it. I am on the tour as well, though a bit later in the month. I have also really loved Kingsolver's work in the past, so I am really eager about this one. It sounds like a great read, and I am so very glad you enjoyed it!

  8. Definitely read more of Kingsolver! I love her writing. I haven't read this one and have heard such mixed reviews. But I know I real get to it eventually.

  9. Yay!! You enjoyed it. Can you believe that I picked up a brand new hardcover copy at my library for 50 cents!! Now I just need to read it!
    Excellent review!

  10. I really enjoyed reading (i.e., listening actually) to The Lacuna as well. I picked it up from the library on a lark, wasn't sure I would like it, and found it so compelling.

    I haven't read much Kingsolver myself, Pigs in Heaven forever ago and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle more recently, but I'm thinking I should read Poisonwood Bible.

    >Kingsolver's writing remains beautiful as ever and her knack for dispensing history lessons while telling a story is unparalleled.

    Absolutely--this book would be a good addition to high school American history curriculum.

    I enjoyed your review--good job!

  11. I have been nervous after reading some other reviews on this book, so I am glad to see you enjoyed it!

  12. I have to read something by this author as welL! She sounds so good!

  13. So glad you enjoyed another Kingsolver title. I tried to read one of her first books and didn't make is half way.... I know Lacuna is a long one but I'm sure I will read it someday.

  14. great review! I am encouraged to see that you felt it got better as it went along - I read about 20 pages and wasn't grabbed by it but I am a big Kingsolver fan so I know I will go back.

  15. My bookclub is reading this one and the new Margaret Atwood for next month. we are over achievers I guess this time around. Great review!

  16. I have been terrified of reading Kingsolver's books - maybe because they come so highly recommended, that I wonder what if I didn't like them. I keep hearing good things about this book, so one these days, I will definitely pick it up!

  17. I loved Prodigal Summer, could not get into Poisonwood Bible and could not even read three chapters of The Lacuna. I still have it on the Kindle, so perhaps I will get to it someday, but I just couldn't get into it.

    My book club met to discuss The Lacuna and so many loved it.

  18. The Poisonwood Bible is one of my all-time favorite books so knowing that you loved that one AND this one makes me really want to dive into The Lacuna right away. Thanks for being on this tour!