Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Review - The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

I love, love, love Barbara Kingsolver.  If you've never read Prodigal Summer, get up and go to the library and get it NOW.  Poisonwood Bible will break your heart, High Tide In Tucson, Animal Dreams .. this woman has an incredible talent.  

This book follows the life of Harrison Shepherd, starting with his childhood in Mexico where his mother has moved with her lover.  The book opens with Harrison and his mother huddling in bed listening to the howler monkeys, which they fear are bloodthirsty demons.  His mother whispers "write everything down, so when they find only our bones they know what happened to us."

And so starts his life as a writer.  He writes through his tumultuous relationship with his mother, meeting and apprenticing himself to Diego Rivera (and subsequently befriending Frida Kahlo), and working for Leon Trotsky.  The book is written mainly as a collection of letters, journal entries, and articles on Harrison himself and his friends. 

After moving to the US as an adult and getting his first book published, Harrison finds himself a target of scrutiny for his ties to the Communist party.  How he reacts to this witch hunt (pardon the term) is extraordinary.  

It was so easy, reading this, to pity this man.  I think Kingsolver demonstrates beautifully how the trials of our lives ready us for what lies ahead.  You are ready to just sympathize with Harrison throughout, and at the end, he amazes you.

The lacuna refers to a portal Harrison finds as a boy while swimming - he notices an underwater tunnel, the only way of which to enter is by holding your breath and swimming as fast as you can.  The tunnel leads to an oasis for a young curious boy.   You hope all the way to end of this book that he reaches the other side.

And I give it:
(Out of 5)

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