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The Lacuna Paperback – Deckle Edge, Jul 27 2010

3.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (July 27 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554684765
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554684762
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 794 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #87,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"This remarkable novel is a finely crafted story of identity and loyalty." The Daily Express "Tender, tragic, always compelling." The Independent on Sunday "Kingsolver stands up for the enduring and redemptive power of a good story." The Times" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 2 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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By Bernie Koenig TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 20 2012
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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