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The Lacuna Unabridged Cd: A Novel [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Barbara Kingsolver
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 3 2009

In The Lacuna, her first novel in nine years, Barbara Kingsolver, the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of The Poisonwood Bible and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, tells the story of Harrison William Shepherd, a man caught between two worlds—an unforgettable protagonist whose search for identity will take readers to the heart of the twentieth century’s most tumultuous events.

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“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) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

From the Mexico City of Frida Kahlo to the America of J. Edgar Hoover, The Lacuna tells the poignant story of a man pulled between two nations.

Born in the United States, but reared in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers and, one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed muralist Diego Rivera. When he goes to work for Rivera, his wife, exotic artist Kahlo, and exiled leader Lev Trotsky, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution.

Meanwhile, the United States has embraced the internationalist goodwill of World War II. Back in the land of his birth, Shepherd seeks to remake himself in America’s hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. But 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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
In her latest novel "The Lacuna", Barbara Kingsolver explores the many meanings of "lacuna," and their related social implications. The brilliance is in how she so skillfully mines this word's rich, complicated nature.

We are all made up of "missing pieces," or lacunas that shape our life, our mind, our body.

Kingsolver shows us how these missing pieces can take many forms, both literal and figurative, physical and metaphysical, through time, memory, lack of understanding tolerance or empathy. And cultural bias.

And it can be argued that the book's narrative style and structure employ the "lacuna model," defined by Wikipedia as "a tool for unlocking culture differences or missing 'gaps' in text (in the further meaning)."

"The Lacuna" is series of diary entries written by a man whose life is itself a composite of missing pieces. He is a loner. Multiple ambiguities, primarily his sexuality, set him apart. The diary sustains him and is central to his survival. It's his identity.

Through him, Kingsolver unlocks differences in culture (American, Mexican, Russian) and raises ethical questions about how 'gaps' in text are resolved.

From his diary entries on the Communist Witch Hunts, we understand the unspoken power of the missing ... the discomfort of gaps. The dark side of the lacuna.

Are the thinkers and the innovators, the ones that aren't scared by the gaps, but rather inspired by them? What's wrong with asking questions or presenting alternate views about what is missing in a so-called "truth"? Is our biggest challenge to the ability to see gaps others don't or won't, or just accepting the necessity of gaps and resisting the pressure to fill them? Can we learn to live with discomfort?
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars fictional Memoir June 2 2010
By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER
This is the story of fictional Harrison William Shepherd, son of a Mexican mother and an American father. During his childhood and youth he is influenced by both cultures. Not quite Mexican ( he is blond and very fair) and not quite American (he is not familiar with their culture and slang).

As a youg boy he begins keeping a journal of daily events and conversations. At fifteen he finds himself in the household of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. While living and working there he mets and spends much time with Soviet dissident Lev Trotsky.

For the first 150 pages of this book I just didn't get it. The story seemed to be going nowhere and I didn't see any possibility of that changing. I did keep plugging along figuring that the selection committee for the Orange Prize knew something that I didn't. It finally started making sense somewhere around page 400. Harrison is a young man who is influenced by the great men and women surrounding him. He does make his own choices, but his life is subject to the decisions and actions of others. When he moves to America the same thing happens. He settles in his career as an author and that is destroyed by scared men on a witch hunt. That part I found insightful. You can do everything right and yet others can mis-construe everything.

The use of American slang in this book was very amusing. I had no idea what most of it meant and neither did Harrison until it was explained to him. His mother used to grab onto any new slang and liberally sprinkle it in her conversations.

Even though this book didn't really work for me, I loved learning more about Mexican history and about the American attempts to purge supposed communists from the country in the era of J. Edgar Hoover. It provides lots of material for a book club discussion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lacuna is not Empty May 20 2012
By Bernie Koenig TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Art Matters: The Art of Knowledge/The Knowledge of Art

I see there are number of reviews of this book already, and most of the points I want to make have been made, so I will just add to them.

This is a fascinating complex work which works on many levels. Harrison Shepherd is a fictional character placed in situations with real figures and give readers new insights into the lives of those people:Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky. I have long said that novels are a great way to learn history, and this novel succeeds in giving us a great picture of day to day life at the Rivera-Kahlo home when Trotsky was living there.

The book also gives us a great picture of the fear Americans lived in after the years of WW11. Everyone was suspected of being a communist, even if no one really knew what communism was. As is pointed out in the book, the issue was not communism, but anti-communism. And, to paraphrase an FBI agent interviewing Shepherd, anyone quoting the American Constitution with regards to free speech will definitely be seen as a communist. And to this day, free speech is not always welcomed. The enemy might change, but the attitude that was behind the anti-communism still pervades American society. I think this is a main theme of the book.

Kingsolver has created a fascinating, complex character in Harrison Shepherd. We know a lot about him, and we even know the contents of some of the lacunas in his life.

The structure of the book, being told through correspondence and an editor's comments, gives some hint as to what to expect at the end. But that, in no way, detracts from the power of the book.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful descriptions
As I spend a lot of time in Mexico and have enjoyed the same places it brought back memories. Will recommend it to my book club.
Published 15 days ago by Kathryn M. Holt
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Barbara Kingsolver at her best
A lackluster effort that pales in comparison to the engaging narratives and characterization found in her previous work. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Shawn Shomody
1.0 out of 5 stars Could not finish it
I am one third way through it and I lost interest.
I am not sure where we are going..
Maybe I have missed the plot , is there one. Read more
Published 4 months ago by DeeDee
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent.
Loved this writer's work. Outstanding in every way. Covers a piece of U.S./Mexican history in an intricately woven story. Understanding of human nature is strong.
Published 15 months ago by MaudeMaryKate
5.0 out of 5 stars Barbara Kingsolver's epic, Lacuna, examines the spaces between truth...
Although The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel is one of my all-time favorite novels, I almost didn't read Barbara Kingslover's latest publication, The Lacuna. Read more
Published on Sept. 24 2011 by Deborah Serravalle
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lacuna: a big read, but well worth the effort!
This book was chosen by my book club. I gasped when I saw the size of it. Now that I have read about 15% of the book, I highly recommend it. Read more
Published on Nov. 15 2010 by Lovestoread
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
The Lacuna fails. The vividly described imagery of the natural world, so present in her previous novels, is counterpointed with an urban landscape. It does not work. Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2010 by discriminating shopper
4.0 out of 5 stars Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna
As usual, Barbara Kingsolver does an excellent job of telling her audience a fascinating story. What attracted me to Kingsolver's writing initially was her use of strong female... Read more
Published on Dec 30 2009 by Beth Ann Wiersma
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