The Lacuna: A Novel

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Harper Collins, Nov 3, 2009 - Fiction - 528 pages
152 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 households in Mexico—from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City—Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence.

Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America's hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. He finds support from an unlikely kindred soul, his stenographer, Mrs. Brown, who will be far more valuable to her employer than he could ever know. Through darkening years, 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.

With deeply compelling characters, a vivid sense of place, and a clear grasp of how history and public opinion can shape a life, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable portrait of the artist—and of art itself. The Lacuna is a rich and daring work of literature, establishing its author as one of the most provocative and important of her time.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - kmajort - LibraryThing

Fabulous! Always pleased with Kingsolver, this novel had me reaching for histories in the McCarthyism era. Amazing how a label can be embraced in one year then reviled and persecuted a few years hence. Highly recommended. The audio is read by the author, a big help with the Hispanic linguistics. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - SeriousGrace - LibraryThing

Mexico, 1929. In the beginning American-born Harrison Shepard is a simple young boy just barely holding onto his Mexican mother's apron strings as she drags him through one failed relationship to ... Read full review

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Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 15
Section 16
Section 17
Section 18
Section 19
Section 20
Section 21
Section 22

Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 13
Section 14
Section 23
Section 24
Section 25
Section 26

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About the author (2009)

Barbara Kingsolver's work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned a devoted readership at home and abroad. In 2000 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country's highest honor for service through the arts. She received the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work, and in 2010 won Britain's Orange Prize for The Lacuna. Before she made her living as a writer, Kingsolver earned degrees in biology and worked as a scientist. She now lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

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