TITLE: THE LACUNA
AUTHOR: BARBARA KINGSOLVER
Oh what a wonderful book. I think this may be the best book I've read this year so far. It is beautifully written, thought-provoking, informative and totally absorbing. This book, this story, this period of recent history will stay with me for a very long time.
This is the story of Harrison William Shephard. Born in the United States early in the 20th century to an American father and a Mexican mother, he is taken to Mexico by his mother; a reluctant participant in her hunt for a better life and a richer husband.
From a young age Shepard is a writer and most of the book is told through his diaries and letters which are all beautifully descriptive, painting a picture that comes fully alive for the reader. Through his diaries we learn about his turbulent years in Mexico, two years of schooling in Washington followed by many more years in Mexico.
During those later years in Mexico Shepard is working for the painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and in their employ he meets and ends up working for Lev Trotsky.
Shortly after the start of WW II Shephard moves to the US where he finds himself a successful novelist only years later. However, his past in Mexico will come back to haunt him when McCarthyism hits America.
It is the story of a man who through accident, circumstance and fate ends up in situations he has no real control over and can't estimate the consequences of. A man who doesn't really understand life or people, who is too much on the outside to understand how the world works.
This is the second time this year that I've read a book that has made a part of recent history that I knew about in theory real for me. The first book was The Help, by Kathryn Stockett which made segregation more than a historical fact for me. The Lacuna has given a (fictional) face to McCarthyism for me.
I bow to Mrs. Kingsolvers talent and can't recommend this book highly enough.