25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
A great, must read, literary and fictional treat.,
This review is from: The Lacuna (Hardcover)
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I thought The Lacuna was a stronger book than The Poisonwood Bible. A boy grows up in offbeat style hitched to his mother who hitches herself to wealthy men in Mexico. He picks up a love of literature and writing, deep skills in cooking and a love of exploring underwater, during which he travels through an underwater tunnel into a far cave, the first lacuna of the book. Without spoiling the story it has an important role to play.
As a young man, he connects to Mexico's artworld by becoming the cook to Diego Rivera and lover of Frida Kahlo. From this he becomes personal secretary to the exiled Communist leader, Trotsky and his present at his assassination. He travels incognito to the United States, where he was born and where his father still lives, and becomes a successful writer with a loyal secretary of his own until the anti-Communist witch hunts that degraded America begin.
So much for the bones of the plot, but it has a deep sensual elegance in form and writing: something of the world of cuisine enters into the design and language, perhaps. And it has richly imagined and characterised protagonists, both fictional and from the world of fact. This interleaving of real and imagined is very successful, I think, although each person feels as real as the others. Wonderful writing, description, characterisation, coming-of-age, rich loving, tragedy, a moving narrative: all of these would be enough to make it a highly successful novel.
But The Lacuna is more than just a novel, it is a searing indictment in the tradition of The Grapes of Wrath of a disgraceful period in American history in which the universal comes to life in the individual. The lacuna, the emptiness, the hole, the gap in the world, is a lacuna in the moral history of America when the spirit of freedom and discovery that made it the exciting place in the emerging modern world was bankrupted by fear and the abuse that fear breeds. When the wounds of torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo jails are still fresh with us, it's a timely reminder of how tyranny can sneak up on you.
Barbara Kingsolver's great achievement is to deliver this with such delicacy, carried on the wings of nurtured hope and of mournful loss of opportunity in a young life. By the same token, her conclusion suggests that hope is not easy to conquer. What has been lost can be found.
A great, must read, literary and fictional treat that packs a social punch.