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The Lacuna

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  65,918 ratings  ·  8,117 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 household
Hardcover, 508 pages
Published November 3rd 2009 by Harper
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Erica Miles I loved The Poisonwood Bible! It was my first Barbara Kingsolver novel. But I loved The Lacuna even more! It's an odd thing, but what I think I secret…moreI loved The Poisonwood Bible! It was my first Barbara Kingsolver novel. But I loved The Lacuna even more! It's an odd thing, but what I think I secretly loved most about The Lacuna, aside from the color, flamboyance, and excitement of the Mexican landscape and of Frida Kahlo's personality, was the understatement of never expressed love throughout the novel an in Harrison's final declaration of his love for Mrs. Brown, though she was not his "type," as he stated many times to Mr. Gold and his other male companions. This was proof to me that true love does not have to be romantic or erotic. It can be a question of deep devotion and dedication. I found it consoling to escape from the usual romantic stuff and discover a tale of deep true love in an entirely different fashion, fit for a loner like me, who could identify with Harrison's shy and reclusive personality and with Mrs. Brown's matter of fact way of showing her love in knitting warm gloves and organizing papers for her dear employer and in Trotsky's love for his chickens. I found these trivial details of daily living extremely exciting!(less)

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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  65,918 ratings  ·  8,117 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Nov 11, 2009 rated it liked it
The Lacuna is really two books. One, the latter, is quite engaging, with a well-written historical perspective, emotional content, a bit of action. The other is an overlong back story, very light on involvement, written as if the author was watching the events and characters from behind a cloud. Considering that the stable of characters includes Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, it takes some effort to make them dull.

Barbara Kingsolver - image from OfficeOnline.com

The Lacuna is Kingsolver’s attemp
Dec 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
I hated this book. I couldn't even finish it. I started it and had so much trouble reading it that I put it down and didn't even want to pick it back up. Curious, I went to Goodreads to see what other people had said about it. Surprisingly, a lot of people loved it. A couple of people couldn't finish it, but the majority gave it good reviews. So I thought I'd give it another try. Ugh. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out its appeal!!

I just Googled it and found a NPR review that made me feel
The story is told as the collected journals of Harrison Shepherd, put together after his death by his secretary and friend Violet Brown. Beginning with his childhood, (just before WorldWar2), as his mexican mother leaves his american father and takes him with her back to mexico. Harrison writes his journals because he can't help but write, like other people cannot help breathing, he is destined to become an author one day.
Harrison's childhood is surreally beautiful, the problems of his chain-smo
Julie Suzanne
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I had the privilege of listening to Kingsolver read this aloud as well as reading the print...I love her. Her voice and her style of narration, her perfectly articulated words and sounds all captivated me instantly. Hearing V.B.'s voice as Kingsolver intended it is what made me want to just hug Violet Brown. The characters were so lovable (even though I'd never want to hang out with Harrison or Violet in real life, but Trotsky definitely).

I have heard people say that this book had a political ag
Jun 18, 2010 rated it did not like it
Placed in context with Kingsolver's other books this is essentially worthless. She turns Freida Kahlo into the most magical pixie dream girl ever and gives us a main character so thoroughly desexed and generally grey that one sort of imagines him as a Ken doll, completely generic and non-threating in every possible way. And I KNOW that's sort of the point of the main character, but still, he is pretty much one of the least enjoyable protagonists I've ever read since all you do is spend time with ...more
Dec 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
About a week before I started reading Lacuna, my friend asked me when I thought Barbara Kingsolver was going to write a gay character. Little did we know...

The fascinating part of Shepherd's homosexuality, of his entire character really, is how it is revealed. Slowly, carefully, the way we had to peel away the thinest possible onion skins to put on slides in my 6th grade science class. Most of this story is told through Shepherd's journal entries, entries in which the pronoun "I" is notably lack
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: readin10
I don't give a book the 5 stars without much consideration. This author's beautiful language and the things she taught me make Lacuna very special to me.
I found myself in the bright and colorful world of Frida Kahlo's Mexico, and the gloomy sphere of the iron curtain and our country's disturbing consequences of McCarthyism. A real work of art that took me away from my cozy home.
It's not a quick read or one you can put down without considering all the circumstances of all the main characters. Hop
Sep 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009-reads
Yep, Barbara Kingsolver does it again, with a book that almost demands that you keep reading. This is the story of Harrison William Shepherd, the son of a Mexican mother, and an American father. The father is indifferent to the boy, and his mother longs for romance and adventure, so she returns to Mexico with the boy.

The book is written as if it is a diary or journal of Harrison's life from his earliest memories. He details his life in Mexico, where through a series of events, he becomes the coo
B the BookAddict
Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Mexico, Leo Trotsky, Committee on Unamerican Activities: The Lacuna is a wealth of information on these topics. But it's outstanding feature is it's narrator, Harrison Shepherd; Mexican/American, cook, sometime secretary, novelist and gay. Kingsolver's wonderful telling of his tale and those whose lives cross his path is insightful, humorous and full of pathos. I was, by turn, amused then saddened by his story; Harrison may have been a fictional character but many live ...more
Sep 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The only disappointing thing about this book was that I finished it, and have no new Kingsolver books to look forward to.

As always, her writing is exquisite. I found myself re-reading parts just to savor her use of language.

The Lacuna is a novel based on real events in history--the Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and the period in the 1930's when Trotsky was exiled in Mexico. I learned a lot while enjoying a good story, not really sure where it was heading--but oh! does it come tog
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
This is a book I read quite a while ago, I rated it a 4 1/2 because I didn't care for the ending.

This is the story of Harrison Shepherd, parents divorced when he was young, his mother took him to Mexico. First they lived on a beautiful hacienda by the ocean where the boy was lonesome until he discovered swimming and diving in the sea. He was much draw to the deep holes, "lacunas" in the ocean and often figured out when the sea was at the right level that he could swim through some of the lacunas
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
3 1/2 stars

The two sections of this book are different enough that it could almost be reviewed as two separate books. They really are THAT different.
First 275 pages or so = 4 stars
Final 230 pages or so = 2 stars

Kingsolver is at the peak of her descriptive powers in the first part of the book. Her bright, lively detailing of Harrison's early life in Mexico compensates for the patchiness of the narration. Add to that the real characters of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Lev (Leon) Trotsky, and it
MK Brunskill-Cowen
Sep 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Is there anyone who writes with such beauty as Barbara Kingsolver? She has an ability to transform the reader from reading on a dreary porch to Isla Pixol, Mexico of the 1930s to Asheville, North Carolina of the 1940s. To transform someone from a beloved novelist to a scourge to be abhorred overnight. The Lacuna is about Harrison Shepherd, son of a Mexican woman and a US government official, who belonged to both countries, yet not to either of them. He wound up working for Diego Rivera and Frida ...more
The Lacuna was a sweeping and epic work of literary fiction that spans from Mexico to Washington, D.C. to Asheville, North Carolina combining history and fiction and taking place from the 1930's to the 1950's. This is the intricate tale of fictional character Harrison William Shepherd with the background of people like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, renowned Latin American artists, to Lev Trotsky and the rise of McCarthyism in the United States. There are beautiful literary and artistic reference ...more
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kingsolver's best book since The Poisonwood Bible, The Lacuna is the story of a diffident, unassuming man who is thrust unwillingly onto the centre stage of history. Harrison Shepherd, is born in America but raised in Mexico by his half American, half Mexican mother, a woman who is temperamentally discontented with her position in society and is always seeking to improve it through a series of affairs with married men.

As a youth, Harrison becomes involved with the painters Diego Rivera and Frid
I really liked the first part (roughly half) of this book about a boy (Harrison)who is being raised by a mother who eeks out an existence by sponging off the men she manages to ensnare. The setting is 1930's Mexico. Mexican artists Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo are an integral part of the story, as is Lev Trotsky (leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and Rivera's friend and houseguest).

The second half of the book completely switches gears. The setting is Asheville NC where Harrison is liv
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is quite the novel, as full and satisfying as anything I've read in some time. Its picture of Mexico in the 30's is spot on, and the characters of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Lev Trotsky feel fresh and sharp.

The political correctness which bored me in Barbara Kingsolver's novels seem naive has developed--she's showing, not preaching. A wonderful read by an author who is at her best.
For some or other reason, being a staunch admirer of Barbara Kingsolver's books, I just could not connect with this one anywhere. Do I blame the author? No. We, the book and I, just did not gel and that's it.

What I appreciated:
1) Historical background of Mexican history going back thousands of years, and American society between 1900 and more or less 1955: brilliant with enough detail to last a lifetime.

2) The characters: The protagonist as introduced by Violet Brown, his personal assistant and
Nandakishore Mridula
This is my first and so far, only book by Barbara Kingsolver. She writes beautifully, and I loved this strange story of a fictional gay man caught up in the real life struggles of Frieda Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Leon Trotsky - also the scathing indictment of McCarthyism in the final part. The story feels strangely incomplete, yet the final, unexpected twist was exquisite.

I am determined to read more of this author's books.
Patricia Williams
Really good story. Lots of history.
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
This one is so close to being 5 stars. It's got the scope and ambition of The Poisonwood Bible, but with the butterfly touch of her breezier novels. Ranging from the 1930s Mexico of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and (exiled) Lev Trotsky to the 1950s America of J. Edgar Hoover, this book uses an epic backdrop to tell the story of one solitary, forgotten man. The dozen or so different formats (including journals, book reviews, letters, newspaper articles, and transcripts) are deftly handled and perfe ...more
This is a great read that satisfies on several levels. A key pleasure is Kingsolver's prose, which shines as we would expect from her track record of essays and novels about rural folks in Appalachia and the Southwest. It also satisfies as a coming of age tale of a half-Mexican, half-American boy, Harrison Shepherd, raised by his mother on an island near Vera Cruz and later transferred to the care of his father, who dumps him in a boarding school in Washington, DC.

Shepherd seeks solace from his
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
I tried & tried & tried to like this book...I am a huge Kingsolver fan so I expected it would grow into something wonderful. I liked the beginning, but once the main character was shipped off to the US, I lost total interest. I was already a little irritated by the disjointed, journal style but was enjoying the character's adventures in Mexico. But when he ended up in the US with his weird father & unpleasant characters, I forced myself to finish the first 100 pages & then stopped...it took me 3 ...more
Joy D
Ambitious historical fiction that begins on an island off the coast of Mexico in 1929. Protagonist Harrison Shepherd is thirteen years old lives with his Mexican mother, Salome, and her paramour, Enrique. Salome left Harrison’s American father in Virginia and traveled to Mexico to live a lavish lifestyle with Enrique. Left mostly to himself, Harrison learns to cook and helps in the kitchen. When the romance grows stale, Salome takes Harrison to Mexico City to live with another of her lovers.

Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is a powerful exposé of our country’s experiences and eventual recovery from the time of the depression until after World War II, up to and including the McCarthy era. The reminder of the world’s decay and the violent politics of that time made me shudder as I read it.
The book traces the life of a fictitious person, Harrison Shepherd, a rather lost soul, born in the United States of an American father, a government worker, and a Mexican mother of rather loose morals. He is shuttled fr
Cathal Kenneally
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Lacuna begins in the dark days of revolutionary Russia and ends up in the McCarthy witch hunts of the early fifties. Post war America was not a nice place to live. The paranoia about Communism that engulfed the country and lead to miserable lives for lots of ordinary people accused either of being a Communist or guilty of unAmerican activities. Either way you couldn’t win . The main character Harrison Shepherd worked as a cook and typist for Trotsky while living in exile in Mexico. When he m ...more
Dec 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. This blew me away, both as a reader and as a writer. There were a few moments that especially moved me. In particular, I'm thinking of a love letter that gets waylaid, and another sort of love letter that finally is opened and understood. The latter made me put the book down and cry. I couldn't open it again for the rest of the day--couldn't even look at the cover--even though it was at a critical part and I was dying to know what would happen, I couldn't face what the character's ...more
Jan 08, 2010 added it
Every night while I was reading this book, I dreamt of its characters. I enjoyed the leisurely first part, but when Kingsolver plunged into the Diego Rivera/Frida Kahlo/Lev Trotsky section, I plunged deeper with her. And by the time the protagonist is writing books, receiving adulation and criticism in his homeland, I was reading the book on at least three levels: 1) paying attention to the protagonist's actions and reactions, 2)reviewing what I know of American history and culture from 1930-195 ...more
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is probably the best book I have read this year so far.
I liked almost everything about it: the structure of the book, which is a mixture of journals of the main character, William Shepherd, since he was a boy until he becomes an adult, pieces written by the main narrator, Violet Brown (the supposed compiler of the book), and several newspaper clips. The writing of adult Shepherd/Kingsolver is beautiful, the story is truly epic, covering important moments of Mexican and USA history,
While I thoroughly enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible I have huge problems with this book. Even though the book is fiction there are historical facts that have been included and it is indeed terrible when she makes so many mistakes. On page 56, she talks about the one fifth booty part that Cortes was to send to the Extremely Catholic Majesty the Queen. When this Queen, Isabel La Catolica, died in 1504, Cortes did not arrive in Mexico before 1519 and he wrote to and shared the booty with Carlos V The E ...more
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Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist, and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in Africa in her early childhood. Kingsolver earned degrees in Biology at DePauw University and the University of Arizona and worked as a freelance writer before she began writing novels. Her most famous works include The Poisonwood Bible, the tale of a missionary family in the Congo, ...more

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