21st Century Literature discussion

The Lacuna
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2013 Book Discussions > The Lacuna - Afterchat (March 2013)

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Terry Pearce For all those who've finished entirely and want to talk about anything to do with the book as a whole. What was your favourite element? What did you like least about it? How did you feel about how it was written? About how it ended? About its themes?

More questions to come...


Daniel I'm afraid I haven't kept very good reading notes, and my habit of binging on a few hundred pages at a time left me struggling to remember which section I should be commenting on for each point. Broad strokes, though—that I can do without worry of being in the wrong spot.

At the risk of harping on the issue, I love how nothing went to waste. Even the howler monkeys mentioned at the beginning were tied into the primal herd instict of media frenzy at the end.

On the question of what I least liked, I had mentioned earlier my struggle with accepting the definition of the underwater cave as a "lacuna". I loved the concept of exposing the gaps (or lacunae) between the façade of truth and what really exists behind the public view, but I couldn't get past my issues with the calling the cave a lacuna. It's petty and personal, yes—and I'd be hard pressed to find anyone who shares the sentiment—but it nevertheless soured my final response to the novel.

Overall, though, it was an immensely enjoyable read.


Terry Pearce There were a lot of tie-ups and the howler monkeys were fantastic. Going back and reading exactly what he said about the howlers in light of how it ended is quite chilling.

I kinda did feel a little what you're saying about the cave, but I thought there was something to do with the spanish translation of lagoon being the same word, or something. Now that I think of it, I'm less than clear, but I gave her a pass.


Daniel Terry wrote: "...I kinda did feel a little what you're saying about the cave, but I thought there was something to do with the spanish translation of lagoon being the same word, or something. Now that I think of it, I'm less than clear, but I gave her a pass."

I have to admit to laughing out loud at that. There was actually a passage early on where Leandro clarifies that it's not a laguna, it's a lacuna. That was the killer for me, and I haven't been able to stop myself from thinking how they translated that into Spanish since, as you point out, laguna is the same word in Spanish for both lagoon and lacuna. A small issue in the grand scheme of things, but it ended up becoming a fly in the ointment for me.

Taking a more positive tack, I was also impressed with the historical research. And I loved how she intermingled historical headlines (mostly from the New York Times) with fictional clippings. What a great way to toy with fact vs narrative licence.


Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I liked the way the author used "lacuna" throughout the book, in different ways, to refer to a missing segment. The underwater cave is also, in a way, a missing segment that connects two places that are not otherwise connected. Apart from connecting two different spots on the map, when Harrison goes through the lacuna at the end of the book, it connects two parts of his life--his relatively carefree childhood and his very complicated adult life.


message 6: by Terry (last edited Mar 19, 2013 09:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terry Pearce Some more questions...

1. Several characters repeat the phrase: "The most important part of a story is the piece of it you don't know." What does this mean to you, in terms of the novel and in terms of real life?

2. The two important women in Harrison Shepherd's life, Violet Brown and Frida Kahlo, seem to be opposites at first glance. Do they also share similarities? What cemented the relationships, in each case? Do you find these women, in their similar or opposing ways, emblematic of women's modes of adapting to difficulty, or exerting power?

3. Why would a friend as prudent as Mrs. Brown disregard the last wishes of someone to whom she was so loyal? Were her actions believable? Were they moral? What do you think of Shepherd's final characterization of their relationship as "a great love"?


Daniel The unknown story was, in my estimation anyways, the key element to the novel. Although the cave was the visual metaphor, this knowledge gap was the more important lacuna. I think the analogy can also act as a counterargument to the story. An equally fascinating story could be made about the other side. We can ask whether it was worth legitimizing Stalin and vilifying Trotsky to weigh the odds against Hitler, but we are equally removed from that important part of the story that we don't know.

I also found Mrs. Brown's actions to be entirely believable and within the constraints of her character. She showed a lot of foresight as the novel wound to a close, so it's little surprise that she realized the value of Shepherd's words in ultimately redeeming his character.

As to the morality of her action, I would say that morality is rather ambiguous in light of the situation. Faced between two wrongs, I certainly felt that she made the right decision—although I wouldn't have faulted her for succumbing to the paranoia either.


message 8: by LindaJ^ (last edited Apr 05, 2014 06:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2388 comments Just wanted to weigh in on this book. I started reading it soon after it was published but took about 6 months to get through it. It started very, very slow for me, but because it was Kingsolver, who has never written a bad book, I kept on. About halfway through, I was engaged and by the last quarter, I could not put it down.

Daniel's comment about Stalin, Trotsky, and Hitler has me intrigued, as it raises history I am unfamiliar with but which seems to fit quite well with what happened to Sheppard. I think I found the last quarter of the book so interesting because I have always been fascinated with what Sen. Joe McCarthy and company were able to get away with and always so proud of Senater Margaret Chase Smith for having the guts to challenge him with her question of conscious speech.


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