RATING : 5 stars
This is the second novel by Barbara Kingsolver I read and I must say that she is one of the best authors I’ve had the joy to experience. I just adore how her love for people, life, and beauty permeates her works. There may be a lot of hurt and suffering in the world she paints for us, but there is this blinding faith in good, and hope that lifts you up. I love her books for their humanity.
This book reads like a diary and for the most part that what it is. Harrison Shepherd is an amazing character and his insight into people is really humbling in a way. He never seems to judge people for the things they do to him. He’s got a lot of naiveté in the beginning, yet also something of a cynic about him. The contrast moves the story in unexpected ways.
The Lacuna is a tale spanning many years and two countries. We get to see Mexico in all its colourful glory, the life in the Rivera household (which is really funny at times and really tragic at others), the taste for Revolution and mixing of cultures. The description of food doesn’t hurt at all. I was moved by the connection between Shepherd and Trotsky; a wonderful dynamic there, as well as with Frida. She is a force of nature and although I could not agree with all her actions she’s got a heart of gold when it counts. This part of the novel really stands out with its sound and energy. It is so different from the parts set in the USA.
Being a son of an American, Shepherd spends a portion of his life there. I was especially moved by the war-time and post-war period he describes for us. The contrast with Mexico couldn’t be bigger in some ways (the culture, climate, food and people) yet so insignificant in others (the media inventing lies, the prosecutions, struggles…). Some of the horrors shown here I’ve known of before, but the novel really drives home the suffocating feeling of those years. People suspected each and everyone, took advantage of the general paranoia and just forgot how to be human and kind. No wonder the young generations fought back. I think we are seeing the same nowadays as well; for too long people have hid their heads in the sand about corruption, corporations and exploitation, poverty and politics and so on. Something’s brewing and this novel is good at showing us how it all starts.
Harrison or better yet – Insólito – knows all these things. He is disillusioned in many ways. His time with Trotsky had taught him many things about the world and politics, even if he denies it. An amazing character I’d love to be friends with – there’s something fragile about him and yet something really inviting, kind. He says he’s always giving people his heart only to see it trampled upon. Oh, yes – I’d love to read those books. 😀
His friend Mrs. Brown is a wonderful person as well and I was really glad he found her. It’s amazing how intimately we get acquainted with the characters, how much they mean to us, even the most insignificant of them. That is why this novel is so great and why I love it. It is similar in some ways to the Poisonwood Bible yet utterly different from it in others. It deserves praise and I’m giving it.
Read it! There’s a reason it got awards.