The Lacuna: A Novel (Paperback)
November 2009 Indie Next List
“Moving from a setting in Mexico (in the company of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Trotsky) to the 1950s America of Red Scares and McCarthyism, The Lacuna tells the very personal and human story of young novelist Harrison Shepherd. Kingsolver does a masterful job creating a story with both scope and intimacy while also raising potent questions about freedom of expression and belief. Bravo!”
— Sheryl Cotleur, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
Winter 2011 Reading Group List
“Kingsolver's first novel in nine years has a compelling, provocative storyline that takes place between Mexico City and the United States in the period from the 1930s to the 1950s. A young Mexican-American man finds himself caught up in the creative and political household of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. He mixes plaster for the muralist, types letters for Leon Trotsky, and befriends Frida. The Lacuna is a solid example of Kingsolver's expertise in combining politics and fiction. The philosophy of Communism and the innate need for freedom of expression raise their demanding fists in this young man's story, and they won't let the reader go.”
— Dianne Patrick, Snowbound Books, Marquette, MI
New York Times Bestseller • A Best Book of the Year: New York Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, and Kansas City Star • Winner of the Orange Prize
“Breathtaking. . . dazzling.” — New York Times Book Review
“Her best novel yet. . . both epic and deeply personal. . . . This is thought-provoking, and potentially thought-changing, historical fiction at its best.” — Dallas Morning News
In this powerfully imagined, provocative novel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author 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.
Born in the United States, raised in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd lacks a sense of home in either. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen; from 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 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. 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, Kingsolver has created a rich and daring work of literature, establishing its author as one of the most provocative and important of her time.
About the Author
Barbara Kingsolver is the author of ten bestselling works of fiction, including the novels Unsheltered, 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 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 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work. She lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.
“Rich…impassioned…engrossing…Politics and art dominate the novel, and their overt, unapologetic connection is refreshing.” — Chicago 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
“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 work that is often close to magic.... Much research underlies this complex weaving...but the work is lofted by lyric prose.” — Denver 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’s] playful pastiche brings to vivid life the culture wars of an earlier era...” — Vogue
“...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
“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
“A sweeping narrative of utopian dreams and political reality…A stirring novel…intimate and pitch-perfect.” — San Diego Union-Tribune
“Kingsolver deftly combines real history and the life of the fictional protagonist…A sweeping tale.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“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
“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
“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
“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] 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
“[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