Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Lacuna

I like anything Barbara  Kingsolver  writes and this novel is no exception.   Her intellect and wit,  elegant style, innovative plots, and well-defined characters make her books a rewarding reading experience.

In this case, the plot is intricate.  It is the story of a young man, Harrison William Shepherd, born of a  Mexican mother and an American father, and spans the years between 1939 and 1951.  As a teenager in Mexico, the boy worked in the household of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and was present at the assassination of Leon Trotsky there.  On his return to the US, he settled down in a small Southern town and became the author of two run-away best selling historical novels set in ancient Mexico.  But this was during the McCarthy witch-hunting years and his background of association with the Riveras and Trotsky came to the attention of  J. Edgar Hoover's FBI  and the House of Representative's Committee on Un-American Activities.  Insinuations, intimidation, falsehoods and paranoia are just some of the tactics employed by this nefarious group to ruin the lives of many loyal Americans during this period.  Some of it is bone-chilling and this novel helps to remind us that we should never forget or underestimate the power of evil minds to do harm to our society.

This sounds grim, but the story is full of lighter moments and wonderful scenes and conversations (imagined by the author) between Shepherd and Frida Kahlo and others.  Rich details of Mexico, the people, food, scenery.  All in all, if you like big, hearty novels filled with interesting people, you should enjoy this book. 

The Lacuna      Barbara Kingsolver      Harper

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